Editor’s note: In August 2020, NACAC released a report urging colleges and universities to examine their policies and practices concerning standardized tests and their potential impact on equity and access. This column is the first in a series of articles reflecting on the report’s recommendations and offering insight into the current state of standardized admission testing.
The decision most colleges made to go test-optional last year amid the COVID-19 pandemic was the right one to get us through an unprecedented crisis. But such a fundamental shift in college admission left a great deal of uncertainty in the minds of students and counselors alike. As a test center, Albuquerque Academy, an independent day school in New Mexico, worked hard to offer the SAT and ACT as soon as we could safely do so.
But telling the story of how one remarkable and dedicated colleague was able to orchestrate our first testing date after the state shut down raises again the question voiced last year by the NACAC Task Force on Standardized Admission Testing for International and US Students in its report: What is the real cost of standardized testing, and who bears the burden?
Students don’t graduate for many reasons, but one critical reason, within an institution’s power to change, is that students don’t see a connection between their studies and a possible career. Way too often higher education relegates career preparation to select majors, separate classes, and special offices on campus. But breaking down these barriers helps all students succeed.
Traditionally, the Common App has required students to list their extracurricular activities; often, as a supplement, colleges ask them to pick the one that is most important and expound upon it. What we have all (hopefully) realized in the last 12 months is that what was once required of students, what was once a part of their daily routines, has changed, perhaps forever. We are asking students to define themselves by a past they didn’t have, at the very moment we require them to identify a future where they can thrive. Encouraging students to define themselves by rules and frameworks that are no longer compatible with the world in which they live is not only a disservice to the students, but to the institutions with which they wish to engage.
I always opt for the window seat. Where else do you get the chance to expand your view of the world, only as the roads, trees, and buildings become smaller? When I fly, that time looking out the window is often when I reflect. It’s also when a song on my playlist might make me cry. Seems to happen more often miles above the earth. Not sure if it’s the cabin air, or the fact that this vantage point allows me time to really listen and hear. These moments of reflection often bring about new ideas.
This pandemic has been a time to reflect as well. It has been hard, and at first, I found myself struggling to manage it all. The emails tripled, the online meetings quadrupled, and the workday seemed longer. Work-life balance was, well…out of balance. I have since found a rhythm and cadence to my days. The space and time allowed me to see the work from a different perspective.
I was in over my head. I was a new school counselor for a high school’s inaugural senior class. From my first day, I was inundated with questions from my seniors.
“This school is asking for my non-custodial parent info, but my mom and I haven’t spoken to my dad since we came to the US years ago — does this mean I can’t apply?”
“My favorite school won’t accept the fee waiver you told me about — why not?”
“My parents want me to start at the community college, but I really want to start at U of I — what should I do?”
And most often, something to the tune of, “My parents didn’t go to college — how do I do all this?!”
We made it through that first year, but not without a lot of questions and mistakes along the way. That crash course in college counseling was something I will never forget, but it didn’t have to be so difficult.
Editor’s note: This post was originally published on Admitted in March 2019. It’s being republished as part of NACAC’s Best of the Blog series.
When it comes to dealing with the key moments of my daughter’s life, I’ve always had my hands full. The first one came when she was not even two years old. She decided it was time to climb up on the playscape all by herself, just like she’d seen her older brother do. It didn’t matter that her legs were about half as long, and the diaper she was wearing significantly limited her mobility. It was time, and that was that.
As she eyed the situation, I was about 20 feet away, clearing some brush, and holding a chainsaw, of all things. There was no way I could drop the chainsaw without her noticing it, and not even the slowest gait towards her would do anything but convince her I didn’t think this was a good idea. All I could do was stand there and watch, poised on the balls of my feet to spring the 20 feet in the event I needed to catch her. She didn’t exactly look like Cary Grant in To Catch a Thief, but she made it up, in her own way, safe and sound.
Editor’s note: Admitted’s op-ed columns offer NACAC members the opportunity to share their take on the day’s news and events. The views and opinions expressed in Member View columns are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the official policies or positions of the association.
Throughout his tenure as president, Barack Obama frequently quoted Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous line, “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.” In 2012, the Obama administration implemented the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) policy, which temporarily allowed qualified undocumented immigrants to the United States, who entered the country as minors, to receive a renewable two-year period of deferred action from deportation and eligibility for a work permit. Additionally, DACA allowed some of these students access to in-state tuition.
DACA’s establishment was controversial, but the path toward DACA was paved decades before. In fact, the implementation of DACA coincided with the 30th anniversary of Plyler v. Doe, a 1982 Supreme Court decision that barred K-12 public schools from charging undocumented students tuition. In may have taken 30 years, but undocumented students in the United States had increased opportunities for not just primary and secondary education, but higher education as well. DACA was, essentially, part of the long arc bending toward justice.