A frequent feature of this year's college application season has been discussion and debate surrounding the CollegeBoard's new Score Choice program, which allows students to select which SAT scores they want to submit as part of their college application packets. Schools are beginning to announce whether they will still require students to submit all SAT scores, and much ado is being made about whether students will use Score Choice and expensive and extensive standardized test prep to game the system. At the same time, a number of college admission officials are talking, or in some cases cheering, about de-emphasizing standardized tests in the admissions process.
Meanwhile, numbers are emerging that suggest much of the hype surrounding the competitiveness of the college application process is a bit overblown. As The Chronicle of Higher Education reported today, just over half the students who take the SAT take it a second time, and the vast majority stop there. A study discussed last week in Inside Higher Ed says that despite the relatively small number of repeat test takers, 88 percent of college students surveyed were admitted to their first choice school. In addition, students typically apply to only three or four colleges on average. The high school students who spend years testing and retesting and compiling an extensive list of reach schools and safety schools may be well-represented in media, but prove to be scarce almost everywhere else.
To summarize, getting into college may involve a lot of work, but it doesn't have to involve a lot of worry. If you're a high school senior waiting nervously for an acceptance letter or a high school junior starting a college search, try not to stress. If you write a strong application essay, maintain decent grades and some kind of extracurricular or community service activities, land a solid test score, and apply to a few colleges that seem to be good fits for you, or even if you just do most of these, you will most likely find yourself in the majority of students who wind up going where they want to go. Now all that's left is figuring out how to pay for school.