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OC HIGH: STUDENT NEWS AND VIEWS : Are SAT Preparation Courses a Good Idea? : No, They Merely Accentuate Inequalities in the System

November 18, 1994|MING HSU | Ming Hsu attends Irvine High School, where this article first appeared in the student newspaper, the El Vaquero.

Pressure to excel on the SAT is fierce. As a result, thousands of anxious students rush to cash in on the wonder of expensive preparation classes in the hopes that their scores will magically rise and their chance of college admission will be secured.

So what is the problem? Isn't everyone merely getting what they want? For those who can afford to pay a small fortune to ensure their success on the exam, the answer may be yes, but for those who simply cannot afford the high expense, the question moves away from "getting what you want" into the realm of cold, hard facts.

The cold, hard fact is that no matter how badly the average student may want to improve his or her score, the majority of families in a time fraught with financial difficulties cannot comfortably afford these classes.

The cold, hard fact is that since large universities such as the UC system deliberate over thousands of applicants each year, they do not always have the time to consider the special "extras" of each applicant and instead rely on the academic index consisting of test scores and GPA to accept up to 60% of their freshman class.

The cold, hard fact is that because of the academic index, SAT scores can often be the determining factor as to whether a student has a chance of making it in the admissions game. The cold, hard fact is that while the game may be unfair, it is the game that each college-bound student must play.

Ironically, standardized tests were initially incorporated in the admission process to eradicate the same inequalities that they now either intentionally or unintentionally perpetuate.

A GPA or class rank cannot be trusted when the systems and processes that have fed into these numbers vary hugely from school to school.

In a 1993 report profiling the valedictorians from high schools across Orange County, the listed GPAs ranged from 2.73 to 4.96, and yet each profiled student held the same No. 1 class ranking in the college admissions process. Likewise, a school that does not grant bonus points for its honors classes cannot offer an equal playing field to those that do.

America has long prided itself on offering some of the finest institutions of higher education in the world, and the state of California, in particular, provides one of the most inclusive systems of affordable education in the United States.

Why then, are we eliminating players from the game before they even have the chance to get up to bat?

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