Forbes has created a list of the top 100 colleges in the U.S. based on SAT scores. The California Institute of Technology comes in first place with a student body whose average SAT score is 1545. University of Chicago comes in second, with 1515. Harvard, Princeton, and Yale then rank third, fourth, and fifth, respectively.
However, do these scores necessarily reflect the academic potential of these schools’ students?
It’s been proven that students from wealthier, more affluent families do better on the SAT, because they can afford to take SAT prep courses.
According to Jacqueline Byrne, partner at Ivy Educational Services (in New Jersey and online), prep courses and tutoring can definitely help raise scores. “To me, however, the most important prep improves students’ academic foundation and then teaches test-taking techniques. Students should do better on the tests and in school as a result of good prep because it is more important to get out of college than it is to get in!”
Because of this bias towards economically disadvantaged students, some colleges have been making the SAT an optional part of their admission process, believing that a student’s high school record and GPA prove a more accurate reflection of his or her academic aptitude.
All this being said, the SAT still carries a lot of weight, and for good reason, too.
Firstly, it can help colleges inundated with applicants screen students. Stanford was only accepting about 1,700 freshmen for the class of 2018, but received about 42,000 applications. Having the SAT handy as a screening tool surely made the university’s process a bit easier.
Secondly, college admissions offices are heavily invested in popular rankings, like the annual list given by U.S. News & World Report. Standardized tests, like the SAT, weigh heavily into these organizations’ selection process. Basically, the better the SAT scores of its students, the higher the college will rank. The higher it ranks, the more it can conceivably charge for tuition.
Thirdly, tests like the SAT do make a good attempt at creating a national standard to compare and contrast students from completely different school systems, which may grade completely differently. Of course, this in no way makes it an IQ test.
In the end, it seems that the SAT inherently can’t reflect students’ true aptitude, but remains one of the best tools college admissions programs have.