Thursday, April 17, 2014
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

In college admissions, testing the essay approach

By Bill Maxwell

Freshman admission to elite colleges and universities has been based on meritocracy, individual ability and achievement of the so-called “best and brightest.”

The primary measuring tool has been the standardized test, and the SAT and ACT are the most-used. Of course, a lucrative industry charges would-be applicants a lot of money to coach them on subject matter that appears on these tests.

Many educators argue that America is SAT- and ACT-obsessed. For decades, increasing numbers of admissions officers, professors and others have argued that these tests are not infallible predictors of how well students will perform academically over time. In fact, the National Association for College Admission Counseling has requested that U.S. colleges and universities re-examine their reliance on the SAT and ACT and expand the use of other admissions tools.

Now, Bard College, in Annandale-on-Hudson, N.Y., is the latest prestigious college to join the trend of expanding how it admits first-year students. Beginning this fall, the college will offer the option of four 2,500-word research essays for admission. The college, whose tuition is $45,730, will provide the prompts and sources for the essays.

Students who earn a B-plus or better on the essays will be admitted regardless of high school grades. The SAT and ACT will remain an option, and the school will keep the Common Application that is used by 415 colleges and universities in the United States.

The inclusion of the essay as another route to admission is fitting for Bard, a unique place. While many other institutions bow to the demands of the business community, Bard continues to engage its students in the life of the mind. For that reason, some of the world’s foremost scholars and artists consider it an honor to work there because of its devotion to academic freedom and intellectual experimentation.

So why use the research paper as an entrance tool?

In a prepared statement, Leon Botstein, Bard’s president of 38 years, explains: “The tradition of high-stakes examination, using multiple-choice questions, has made the entire apparatus of high school and college entrance examinations bankrupt. Teachers, scientists and scholars must once again take charge of the way we test. What the Bard entrance examination asks is that students study the source materials and write comprehensively in order to show the quality of their reasoning.”

He further explained in The New York Times that the move to the admission-by-essay approach is a “kind of declaring war on the whole rigmarole of college admissions and the failure to foreground the curriculum and learning.” The current system, he said, is “loaded with a lot of nonsense that has nothing to do with learning.” He said he wants to see the college entrance process return to the “basics” and “common sense.”

On its website, the college touts itself as being “a place to think.” This is not just a fancy slogan. It is a concept that defines the essence of the college, and a standardized test alone cannot measure how a young person will respond to the intangibles of the school’s intellectual engagement.

Botstein argues that while college prepares young people for careers, it also should teach ways to “connect learning and life in a manner that influences everyday life, including earning a living.” The research essay, therefore, is an effective way to introduce applicants to Bard’s culture and to let them gauge their commitment to the challenges ahead.

What about cheating? How will the college know the essays are the students’ own? To use the essay option, Botstein said, students must sign a pledge that the work is theirs and provide a character reference from their school. He told The New York Times that he wants to take the “high road,” trusting that students are being honest.

Skeptics and supporters alike will be watching Bard’s experiment. No matter how it turns out over time, evidence long has shown that standardized tests are shutting out many otherwise qualified applicants. Why not try the research essay?

— Bill Maxwell is a columnist for the Tampa Bay Times. Reach him at bmaxwell@tampabay.com

Special to The Enterprise

LEAVE A COMMENT

Discussion | 1 comment

The Davis Enterprise does not necessarily condone the comments here, nor does it review every post. Read our full policy

  • admission essaysDecember 23, 2013 - 2:32 am

    Leon Botstein is a really great person. thanks for sharing all those awesome information here. really glad to have those. looking forward to have more.

    Reply | Report abusive comment
  • Recent Posts

  • Enter your email address to subscribe to this newspaper and receive notifications of new articles by email.

  • .

    News

    Davis wins USA Today Best Cycling Town honor

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1

     
    Benefit set to help local bike legend

    By Adrian Glass-Moore | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Jury deliberates murder, elder-abuse charges

    By Lauren Keene | From Page: A1

     
    State’s health care sign-ups beat projections

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2, 1 Comment

    For the record

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A2

     
    California residents divided on drought solution

    By San Francisco Chronicle | From Page: A2

     
    For the record

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A2

    Three killed in attack on Ukrainian base

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2 | Gallery

     
    Downtown post office set to reopen

    By Thomas Oide | From Page: B3

    Run or walk to prevent child abuse in Yolo County

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    Nominations sought for charity paint giveaway

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3

     
    Scholar will discuss human trafficking in Friday talk

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A3

    Per Capita Davis: Now, for some good news

    By John Mott-Smith | From Page: A4

     
    Birch Lane hosts 50th anniversary party

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Hannah Stein reads poetry at gallery

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Davis Food Co-op to offer free bags on Earth Day

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Get in the picture with school board candidate

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    KDVS hosts on-air fundraiser April 21-27

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Tickets on sale for Pence Garden Tour

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Fundraiser planned for Allen’s campaign

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4, 2 Comments

    Food Co-op board plans open house

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Davis Downtown hosts candidate forum

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A4

    Learn more about Google Glass at talk

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Barbecue celebrates winter shelter program

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

    Sign of things to come

    By Fred Gladdis | From Page: A8

     
    Davis Soroptimists celebrate 60 years

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8

    .

    Forum

    Fancy meeting you here …

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B5

     
    Don’t miss a Trokanski dance

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

    Frank Bruni: The oldest hatred, forever young

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A6, 4 Comments

     
    Expert: Free parking is a myth

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6, 1 Comment

    Have they really learned?

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    A great community effort

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6, 2 Comments

    Public Health Heroes honored

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: A6

     
    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: A6

    .

    Sports

    Huge inning propels Pleasant Grove past DHS

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Giants edge Dodgers

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Foster steps down as Lady Blue Devil basketball coach

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    River Cats’ streak reaches six wins

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

    Landry evolves into UCD women’s lacrosse leader

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Youth roundup: Martinez, Chan come up big at gymnastics regional

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B2 | Gallery

    Kings drop season finale to Suns

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B2

     
    Angels get past A’s in extras

    By The Associated Press | From Page: B8 | Gallery

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

    Wineaux: Good deals off the beaten path

    By Susan Leonardi | From Page: A7

     
    Rockabilly phenom to play at The Palms

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    HellaCappella showcases a cappella singing

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    ‘One’ singular sensation to open at DMTC

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

    25th annual state clay competition exhibit at The Artery

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A7

     
    .

    Business

    .

    Obituaries

    Tapan Munroe

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A4

     
    .

    Comics

    Comics: Thursday, April 17, 2014

    By Creator | From Page: B6