Oct 3, 2009

Common App Board Members Make Adjustments for Score Choice™

In response to a few glitches in the system, the members of the Board of Directors of the Common Application have agreed to adopt a “temporary” policy to deal with problems arising from implementation of SAT Score Choice™. The New York Times and Inside Higher Ed are reporting that students will now be allowed to skip—without penalty—questions requesting test dates and scores. While colleges generally evaluate students based on official scores received from standardized test organizations, the Common App asks students to self-report SAT's and/or ACT's so admissions officers can have the information to begin processing applications. Evidently, students are delaying submitting materials—official test score reports and applications—in order to evaluate their options under the new reporting program. Many are waiting to complete all testing before deciding which scores to send. And this is causing a problem.

Unfortunately, the guidance provided by the Common App on its website is not nearly as clear as what is being suggested by either news source. In fact, nowhere on the website is there any indication that students will be given a complete pass on the test section of the form. The only reference to the issue appears deep within the Common App Support Center and simply addresses the mechanics of submission:

“We recognize that you may find yourself in a position where some of your colleges require you to report your full testing history while others permit you to report your scores selectively or withhold them entirely. While the Tests section does not offer you the ability to differentiate your score reporting to reflect conflicting requirements, leaving this section blank or incomplete will not prevent you from submitting your application. Please understand, however, that colleges and universities may use the information provided in the Tests section to assist in the processing of an application before official results arrive…”

The Common App Board of Directors, representing all member institutions, seems aware of a need to communicate reassurance to students that they may skip these questions without being penalized in the application process—to hurry things along. In fact, they have been working directly with the College Board to find some resolution, according to Brian O’Reilly, President of the SAT. How this is being communicated to colleges and universities and what it means exactly remain to be seen. Common App officials suggest that the wording of the Board’s guidance was much more “nuanced” than what was announced, and it appears that further clarification may be in order.

It is worth noting that the Universal College Application has always been flexible and fairly clear when it comes to reporting test information. On the “online input" screens, certain fields are designated by red stars. Those fields are required to be able to submit. The fields pertaining to standardized testing are not marked with red stars and are considered optional. According to Josh Reiter, President of the Universal College App, this was by design so as to allow students time to complete testing and then decide which scores to request and officially submit.

Contrary to what was reported by The Times and Inside Higher Ed, both the Common App and the Universal College App permit students to create alternate application forms and send specially-tailored test information to specific colleges or universities. For those students understanding the requirements of the schools to which they are applying, this is a reasonable way to address the problem of differing score report policies. Although this was not the original intention of the function, it works for this purpose. Again, it is the responsibility of the student to conform to all score reporting policies--and that's not always too easy!

1 comment:

  1. Very interesting...it is so confusing. Who do we believe?