SATs and the Admissions Process

Those who follow College Confidential threads know that there has been some discussion about our admission process and, specifically, our statement that we do not consider SAT scores in evaluating applicants for the Schreyer Honors College’s incoming class. It is important to note that this is NOT a change of practice here in the Honors College. It is true that, prior to this current application cycle, we have noted an average SAT score which gave potential students an idea of the caliber of previously admitted Scholars. But since at least the year 2000, individual SAT scores have not been made available to the faculty members who read and review the transcripts, essays, and letters of recommendation submitted by each applicant.

In other words, we have NOT considered SAT scores for admission into the SHC for at least the last 8 years; the only change we made this year was to remove any reference to SAT in the application itself. With that said, I wanted to offer some clarification and also give some sense of how we choose our Scholars.

First and foremost we look for students who are already showing signs of developing into our mission:

The mission of the Schreyer Honors College is to promote:

  • Achieving academic excellence with integrity
  • Building a global perspective, and
  • Creating opportunities for leadership and civic engagement.

Our first criteria is then to asses academic ability. While we do not consider the SAT, the transcript is certainly very important. It is not just how good were the grades, but what courses were taken? Did the student take the most rigorous course offerings available at their high school? If there was the odd dip in grades, was it in the field that the student intends to study? And if there is such a dip, was any explanation provided? The transcript, carefully read, is a much better indicator of a student’s academic ability than the SAT.

The essays from the student are looked at very carefully and have been crafted to try and gain some insight into the character of the applicant. We have many many more applicants that we can admit. So we are looking not just for high marks on the transcript but also for the quality of the individual. Has the student been involved in their community and as a leader? The essays also give us insight into how the student thinks and how broad their view of the world is. We don’t expect students to have traveled physically, many simply do not have the means or the time, but we do want to see that their world view is broad.

Finally, the letters of recommendation helps us to place this particular applicant in context. They too can and should give us a sense of the character of the student and helps us to understand what they would be like as a member of the college.

As an illustration of the kind of student that we are looking for I often reference the infamous statement from the heads of Enron that they were “the smartest guys in the room.” They may well have been, but what did they use their intellect to do? Did they use it to better themselves or the world? So we do not seek the very best students, we seek the very best students who are also committed to making the world a better place. And that is our vision, “to educate men and women who will have an important and ethical influence in the world, affecting academic, professional, civic, social, and business outcomes.”

Congratulations to all who have been accepted! You are part of an exceptional community and I am eager to see how you will make this world better!