Wake Forest Provost Is “Rethinking Admissions”


The SAT (Scholastic Aptitude Test) has long been the benchmark that colleges and universities use to determine whether a student is admitted or not. That test has set the educational fate of millions of students for decades, sometimes making a profound difference on the path that students take after they finish their studies.

SAT, Not A Crowd Favorite With Some

studentBut, the SAT hasn’t always been the favorite of some and not just students. Over time, a number of college officials have taken steps to minimize the importance of SAT scores, choosing to concentrate on other student achievements or disregarding the SAT completely.

Recently, Wake Forest University in Greensboro, NC hosted a two-day conference, “Rethinking Admissions,” which noted the growing interest in reducing the emphasis on standardized tests, a move Wake Forest made last year by making the SAT optional for applicants.

Wake Forest Helps Shape The Conversation

Quoting Wake Forest Provost Jill Tiefenthaler who hosted the event, “The national conversation initiated by this gathering represents the first step on a higher road in higher education, beginning with more equitable admissions processes. In his address to Congress, President Obama cited an urgent need to expand the promise of education by making higher education more affordable, and he set a goal for America to again have the highest portion of college graduates in the world by 2020. To reach that goal, colleges must re-examine their selection methods to ensure they are providing equal opportunities to deserving students from all socioeconomic backgrounds.”

Tiefenthaler, who is also professor of economics at the university, has led strategic planning efforts at Wake Forest and has backed key initiatives in admissions and enrollment. Her research often focuses on the economics of the family and told conference participants that the admissions issue is a topic that is close to her heart.

“I’ve worked closely with families on a variety of community-action programs, and I know how terribly important a college education is to high-achieving students and the challenges the admission process represents to people who are facing it for the first time,” Tiefenthaler said.

Public Universities Take A Leading Role

Tiefenthaler noted the work that public universities have taken in order to make college more accessible to some students. For example, at The University of Virginia, that school has eliminated its early decision option.

The University of Texas reports 10 years of success with its “top 10 percent solution,” which guarantees admission to every in-state student in the top 10 percent of their high school class to any school in the University of Texas system. The University of California system has been wrangling over the use of standardized tests for 40 years and will implement a new policy in the fall of 2011, which drops the SAT II subject tests but retains the SAT I.

Backdoor Admissions Policies At Work?

Some were surprised that Wake Forest would hold such an event, given that at least one of the speakers took several elite schools to task for their alleged “backdoor” admission standards where children of tycoons, celebrities, alumni and other influential people can gain entrance, often ahead of more qualified students.

Responding to these comments Tiefentaler concluded, “We wanted to be a catalyst for this national discussion. When you make a bold decision, such as Wake Forest has done in its admissions process, you must be ready to defend your position. You must also be open to criticism and flexible enough to adapt and learn throughout the process. I applaud the open discussion we have shared at this conference, and we look forward to sharing the results of our first class crafted on an SAT-optional model.”

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