Sep 28, 2015

Virginia Tech says ‘no’ to old SAT for high school class of 2017

Virginia Tech

Much to the surprise of some members of the high school class of 2017, Virginia Tech has decided not to accept the “old” SAT for fall 2017 admission.  Taking a position that is somewhat at odds with the majority of colleges and universities in the country, Tech will only accept the new or “redesigned” SAT (rSAT) or the ACT for applicants to Hokie Class of 2021.

According to the Virginia Tech website, “Those who plan to apply to Virginia Tech for the fall of 2017 and beyond, are required to take either the ACT or the redesigned SAT test, which will be available on March 6, 2016."

While Virginia Tech might be largely alone in its policy relative to the class of 2017, more than a few colleges are signaling possible preferences for the rSAT in requirements being published for future applicants.  For example, Yale recently announced that in deference to the quality of the rSAT, SAT Subject Tests would no longer be required and seemed to suggest a mild preference for the rSAT.

“There’s no perfect standardized admissions test,” said Yale Dean of Undergraduate Admission Jeremiah Quinlan in an interview with the Yale Daily News. “But the redesigned SAT does look to be an improvement over the last exam, in terms of clearness and connection to [the college] curriculum.”

Jonathan Burdick, Vice President and Dean of College Admission at the University of Rochester, agrees, “We will prefer the new test over the old at Rochester because it’s a better test of the skills we value.”

It’s worth noting that Rochester has “one of the most progressive testing policies anywhere.”  Their test flexible policy allows for a wide variety of tests to fulfill admissions requirements including SAT Reasoning, ACT, two or more results from SAT Subject Tests, Advanced Placement, IB and others.

Yet Dean Burdick is clear about how the “old” SAT will be treated in future credential reviews:  “I think the new SAT is a better test, so for those students who submit both new and old SAT scores, I believe that during review and Committee we are likely going to rely on those new scores more.  I suppose that means at the margins that a current junior who scores well this fall and then scores less well next year might be less likely to be admitted.”

Other institutions have taken a more neutral approach, even going so far as to suggest tests are good for multiple years so anyone submitting the old SAT between now and its expiration five years from now, will have those scores considered for admission.  

Still others have simply lost confidence in the ability of standardized tests to predict much of anything and have taken the opportunity to drop optional sections of both the ACT and the SAT or announce test-optional policies for the future.

Most institutions are aware that test prep planning takes place months if not years in advance of application submission.  In the D.C. area, many companies scheduled classes specifically targeted to the old SAT this past summer, and literally thousands of dollars have been invested by families hoping to prepare applicants for a test which has its last administration in January of 2016.  

“We've been dealing with the fallout from [the Virginia Tech] decision as well,” commented a tutor reacting to the policy concerning fall 2017 applicants. “While I'm starting to see some students who might benefit from the new SAT (much less vocabulary, greater time per question), it's definitely been a very upsetting week for many people.”

So far, no other colleges or universities have come forward with policies similar to that of Virginia Tech. But it bears watching as more information becomes available about the rSAT and colleges get sold on its value.

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