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College Prep Tail Wags the Admissions Dog

June 03, 2005

Re "New SAT: Write Long, Badly and Prosper," May 29: Les Perelman makes sound recommendations, such as discarding the five-paragraph formula and emphasizing quality over quantity of prose, for changing how the new essay portion of the SAT is scored. But I don't think it's any accident that SAT scores are such reliable indicators of parents' income levels, and would be surprised if there were any genuine will to tamper with the standards that have produced that state of affairs.

A lucrative industry has formed around the process of applying to college, private ones especially. It encompasses not only test preparation, but admissions counseling and resume-building summer programs geared toward just about every activity that might catch an admissions officer's eye.

I would submit that the preparation-and-counseling tail now wags the admissions dog, with the SAT and similar standardized tests deliberately engineered for coach-ability. And frankly, how better to attract and serve the candidates most qualified -- and likely -- to plunk down $150,000 to $200,000 for a bachelor's degree?

Margaret Daugherty

Los Angeles

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