Sep 9, 2009

But Will Colleges Know?

Among the nagging questions surrounding the Score Choice™ reporting policy introduced this year by the College Board is the issue of whether or not colleges and universities will be able to “see” or otherwise divine if a student has invoked Score Choice privileges. Setting aside moral and ethical dilemmas posed by a student’s decision to follow or ignore a school’s stated policy, this can be a potentially troubling question for students and counselors.

Under the terms of the program, students have the option of using Score Choice for both the Reasoning and Subject tests. For Reasoning Tests (SAT I), students using Score Choice are offered the opportunity to send scores by “sittings” only. In other words, students may elect to send all scores from one or more sittings defined as a collection of 3 scores (M, CR, W) to a specific college or university. They may not generate their own personal “superscore” report drawing on scores from different sittings. If a student decides to opt out of Score Choice, all scores from all test dates are reported. In this instance, a college (or scholarship program) may select the best scores—Math, Verbal, or Writing—from among all sittings to use in their assessment of a student’s qualifications. Within the Subject Test subgroup, students can similarly elect to send whichever scores they wish to colleges requiring or requesting Subject Test results. Luckily, relatively few colleges require or recommend Subject Tests, and those that do are generally not fussy about use of Score Choice in the selection of scores to be sent from among the individual subject areas.

Although the College Board does provide some guidance in the form of “pop-ups” that appear when a student makes a report request, it is ultimately up to the applicant to be perfectly clear on school policies and do the right thing. Of course it would be helpful if all colleges and universities were clear about their policies on their websites. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case, so students must rely on the College Board to be correct in their interpretation and reporting of the rules.

Once a student requests (and pays for) a score report, the College Board sends scores in one of three ways to colleges, universities and other institutions: internet score delivery, CD-Rom, and/or paper. I am assured by the College Board that these reports contain no indication of whether or not a student has elected to use Score Choice either by direct statement or inference. A sample of the student score report is provided by the College Board on their website (note page 2 of the 16-page document) as is a neat little booklet for colleges to use in setting up their accounts. There really is no place for reporting on Score Choice within the data layout for the reports sent to colleges.

Take my experience as a cautionary tale: it took nearly 45 minutes to get through to the College Board on the counselor help line to ask my question.

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