Overheard in Committee – 2014 Early Decision Edition

We Admit It!  We have begun Early Decision Committee deliberations.  This morning we all gathered in our conference room ready to craft the beginnings of the Class of 2019.  Armed with coffee, a cart full of Scooby snacks and genuine enthusiasm for this part of our process, we sat down and opened the first file for discussion.

Throughout our Committee processes, we do our best to give our readers an insider’s look at this vital part of our application review.  We pull back the curtain so to speak, and let you in on what we discuss and why we discuss it.  So, with that, we present our first “Overheard in Committee” blog of the 2014-2015 admission cycle.

Overheard in Committee today: “I wonder why she didn’t take the SAT again?”

The student whose application we were discussing had taken the SAT only once at the beginning of her junior year.  Her score was at the high end of our bottom quartile.  Given her strong grades junior year in her first AP courses, and given her score on her first attempt was decent, we believe had she taken the SAT again either the spring of or summer following her junior year, or even the fall of her senior year, her scores likely would have risen to well within our middle 50% range.  Furthermore, while some applicants do not see improvement with additional attempts at standardized testing, many do simply by having already taken the exam.  The second time around they know what to expect, where to focus their energies and what if any areas to focus on for improvement.  This student’s other credentials were fine but not exceptional (much like her SAT score) so having a higher SAT score certainly could have helped improve her standing within our competitive applicant pool.

We know standardized testing isn’t how you want to spend the Saturday mornings of your junior and senior years of high school.  We are certainly not advocating that students sit for an unnecessary number of exams.  But, like any other component of the application, why wouldn’t you do everything in your power to put your best foot forward?  You pick good courses, you work hard to earn strong grades, you involve yourself thoughtfully and passionately in extracurricular activities, you pick those who will sing your praises to write recommendations and you spent hours crafting your essay(s).  Why should standardized testing be any different?  If you hit it out of the park on your first attempt, that’s great!  But for most students, practice makes perfect (well, likely not perfect, but at least makes for improvement).  Try the test again or try the other exam.  It can’t hurt you.  If your score does not improve we’ll use your original score.

Standardized testing is tough.  It’s not without its controversies and detractors.  But it’s also still, in most cases, part of applying to college.  At W&M, the SAT or ACT is one part of our process; no more than that, and no less than that.  Like any other component of the application it can make you a more or less competitive applicant, and it is part of what we consider when rendering a decision.  The point of this blog is not to criticize someone for getting a lower score but to underscore that just like every part of our process, we apply context.  With standardized testing it’s not just what score you got but when did you take the exam, how many times, was a prep course part of your school schedule, is there an academic theme (meaning maybe your math grades are lower and likewise the math component of your SAT/ACT is lower), etc.  Additionally, it’s to encourage future applicants to give themselves the opportunity to showcase their best selves in all parts of the application.

This is just one example of what we discuss during Committee deliberations and why.  The questions we ask, the back-and-forth we exchange all help to inform our decisions and craft the best class we can.

Wendy Livingston ’03, M.Ed. ‘09
Associate Dean of Admission

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