What is the Ideal College Admissions Process?

February 21, 2022

The college admissions process is in a state of flux. Popularly held values have shifted. This has had people reconsidering whether the current admissions system is equitable or even effective. It has made them try to change things in the places in which it appears not to be. And ultimately, it is the public that defines what is profitable (and thus what is possible) in the free market. Thus, there is a real chance of change. A public who have the right mindset towards improvement are making many of these new judgements. However, they lack the practical experience and factual knowledge to make any such changes effective and sustainable. Speaking as a passionate tutor with years of experience with the college admissions process, I propose the following as the ideal college admissions process.

Standardized Testing

Criticism of these tests is not unwarranted. Some current standardized test questions are flawed, but standardized tests are neither the holy grail nor evil incarnate. They should not be made to carry too much of the weight of the admissions process. Rather, they should be part of a larger system to give evaluators an understanding of a student.

Evaluation Process

Part of this larger system should be an expansion of how we evaluate students. We should not just limit ourselves to paper exams. We must expand and invest in oral examinations to ensure a more holistic process. Oral evaluations would present an opportunity for a far different type of pressure testing than do written exams. Optimistically, expanded exams involving oral testing and effective skill-specific evaluation might incorporate some elements of the current AP system. In this, there is a different structure for tests. The evaluated skill determines it. Instead of being limited to students who took AP classes, though, it would be part of the standard process much like the SAT or ACT exams. If done well, this would allow colleges to evaluate a student’s ability to do something with their skills.

Students’ Skill Development

There should also be reliable data collected on students’ skill development over time. Looking at a student’s course manuscript at the end of high school rarely holds the value that it should when the quality of education varies so drastically from school to school. Another element of the current system that can supplement this is the eye towards extracurricular activities. They can say a lot about whether a student is intellectually interested and what they have done to pursue those interests.

If we found ourselves investing in a new system like this, then we might finally have an admissions process that really says something about what a student is capable of, allowing them to truly find their way to the best college for them.

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