Bard College has created an alternative application for prospective students. Instead of submitting grades and SAT scores you simply submit several essays, totaling 10,000 words. Some people will love this, some people will hate this and choose the traditional application—I love it.
Don’t mean to humble brag but I was accepted into Bard College so I know a bit about it in terms of what they’re selling in their pamphlets. The other schools I applied to out of high school and would end up attending, Sarah Lawrence College and NYU Gallatin, had similar pedagogical methods. At all three schools, students are allowed to design their own majors, classes are small and at Sarah Lawrence and Bard grades are not given but students receive lengthy written evaluations.
I am not sure that this admissions method would work at every college but at Bard and schools similar to it, it totally makes sense. During my 4 years of college I took only one class that had actual tests. All of my other classes required lengthy essays. They were exercises in critically thinking, engaging and debating ideological standpoints and thus were better at conveying whether a student understood how Marx and Hegel were different. However, in computer engineering and organic chemistry an essay isn’t going to be the most precise gauge of a student’s understanding.
At a school like Bard where discussion and writing take precedence over multiple choice and problem-solving short answer questions it makes sense to omit test scores altogether as they won’t be entirely relevant when the student enters university.
I don’t believe standardized testing like SAT/ACT accurately measures how well a student will do in college. I did horribly on the SATs and got straight As. I know people who got excellent SAT scores but were mediocre at college. It all depends on the kind of student, the dedication of the student and the kinds of courses they are taking—it by no means is a measure of capability or intelligence. The only thing the SATs can measure is how much test prep the student had and if that student is from a low-income family the answer usually is none since SATs are actually irrelevant to what you’re taught in high school and SAT prep costs money.
The president of Bard, Leon Botstein, said, “It’s kind of declaring war on the whole rigmarole of college admissions and the failure to foreground the curriculum and learning. You ask the young person: are they prepared to do university-level work?” He added that current admissions method were, “loaded with a lot of nonsense that has nothing to do with learning.” Yep.