Friday, April 24, 2015
YOLO COUNTY NEWS
99 CENTS

In college admissions, testing the essay approach

By
From page A15 | November 03, 2013 |

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 [email protected]

Comments

comments

Special to The Enterprise

  • Recent Posts

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

  • .

    News

     
    Water and power have a troubling interdependency

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A1 | Gallery

    New design submitted for conference center

    By Dave Ryan | From Page: A1 | Gallery

     
    Los Angeles march to commemorate Armenian killings

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

    Hostage deaths a reminder of risk of ‘deadly mistakes’

    By The Associated Press | From Page: A2

     
    Bob Dunning: Fairness is an afterthought for them

    By Bob Dunning | From Page: A2

    Walkers head out three times weekly

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4Comments are off for this post

     
    Got bikes? Donate ‘em!

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    Need a new best friend?

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4 | Gallery

    Beginning tai chi classes start May 5

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

     
    College Night set April 30 at DHS

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A4

    Tour of co-ops precedes Sacramento conference

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A5

     
    School board hears report on health services

    By Jeff Hudson | From Page: A5

    Mamajowali will perform at benefit house concert

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A6 | Gallery

     
    Explorit: Celebrate International Astronomy Day

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

    Learn basics of composting in Woodland

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A6

     
    Take a peek at region’s past at Tremont Mite Society’s social

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A8 | Gallery

    BeerFest expands to include cider

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8

     
    Winkler Dinner raises funds for enology, viticulture activities

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: A8 | Gallery

    Raptor Center welcomes visitors at May 2 open house

    By Trina Wood | From Page: A8 | Gallery

     
    Mapping where human action is causing earthquakes

    By New York Times News Service | From Page: A9

    Hummingbird health: Appreciating the little things

    By Kat Kerlin | From Page: A12 | Gallery

     
    .

    Forum

    Tom Meyer cartoon

    By Debbie Davis | From Page: B4

     
    The fight for gender pay equity

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B4

     
    Thanks for supporting the arts

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

    Bike Swap another success

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

     
    Drink is a tasteless insult

    By Letters to the Editor | From Page: B4

    It’s a depressing beat

    By Creators Syndicate | From Page: B5

     
    .

    Sports

    Reeling Blue Devils stop skid against Sheldon

    By Evan Ream | From Page: B1 | Gallery

     
    Aggie Spring Game environment will up the gridiron fun factor

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1 | Gallery

    Rare DHS track loss still full of highlights

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B1

     
    Lehner talks about the UCD student-athlete experience

    By Bruce Gallaudet | From Page: B1

     
    DYSA roundup: Lester, Osborne lead Storm over Dixon

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

    Lady Demons’ fundraiser a smash hit

    By Enterprise staff | From Page: B3 | Gallery

     
    Pro baseball roundup: River Cats lose their fourth straight

    By Staff and wire reports | From Page: B12

    .

    Features

    .

    Arts

     
    ‘Ex Machina': The perils of playing God

    By Derrick Bang | From Page: A10 | Gallery

    Ceramicist works will be featured at The Artery

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: A11 | Gallery

     
    .

    Business

    Chamber expands Korean sister-city opportunities

    By Felicia Alvarez | From Page: A5 | Gallery

     
    Car Care: Tips for buying your first ATV

    By Special to The Enterprise | From Page: B6

    Subaru goes rear-wheel drive with sporty BRZ coupe

    By Ann M. Job | From Page: B7 | Gallery

     
    .

    Obituaries

    .

    Comics

    Comics: Friday, April 24, 2015

    By Creator | From Page: B5