In response to Kenny Xu and Allegra Geanuracos’s perspectives “Dear Admissions: Don’t Use Coronavirus to Push Anti-Testing Agenda” and “Here’s What Kenny Got Wrong”

Dear Davidsonian,

I am a proud graduate of the Class of ‘82 and want to dip my toe into the waters of the SAT “discourse.”  When I was an applicant, there were six or so criteria in the determination of whether one could be a capable student and worthy of acceptance to Davidson. These included: SAT, GPA, athletic involvement, extracurricular activities, those lengthy  “application essays,” and the in-person interview. 

Thank goodness there were a variety of factors, as I am sure my SAT scores were not top of my class. Being well-rounded, having good grades, and the intent to play on a Davidson team helped balance my standardized scores. I was also privileged enough (if we go by the view of an earlier writer) to have had time to participate in extracurricular activities and be involved in my church. 

Continuing to use myself as an example, the removal of the requirement of the SAT (or “test optional” as Dean Gruber stated) could have perhaps made my application a slam-dunk. However, before we consider dropping the validity and requirement of the SAT, should we not spend a minute validating the other criteria? Why require GPAs if it has been proven that schools within different cities/states vary widely in their grading? Why look at athletics, as not everyone wants or gets to play? Why require the submission of essays on our application when creative writing might not be everyone’s cup of tea? Why place value on an extracurricular activity when that has already been challenged as an affluent person’s option?  

Making optional those evaluative tools could have definitely hurt my chances. But for the one who is a testing genius, removing the requirement of the SAT marker could dilute his/hers. An applicant with a perfect SAT score and a possible future genius in medicine, for example, might not feel as inclined to apply if he/she believes that factor doesn’t have the same value. My point is: Exactly where in this applicant-decisioning do we say, let’s just do the “tummy read” — does this applicant make us feel good to accept, and shall we blur over issues that might make it challenging for him/her to succeed? I am not hung up per se on the SAT scoring; again, please see above. I also support the acceptance of students from truly unique circumstances who would have had exceptionally blended experiences. But, where are we going to plant the new deep water markers for what are acceptable factors and, most importantly, will they enable a graduate to succeed in this world?  

My entire career has been spent helping college graduates and, as they aged, perhaps once again, find their next great role and prepare them for it. I want to ensure our graduates continue to have the competitive advantages for which the Davidson brand currently stands. Let’s make sure that we evaluate applicants with wide, respected markers to continue acceptance of students who can succeed at Davidson and in their best life. I’ve seen other colleges waiving the SAT requirement for one year, not three, due to this current crisis, and I encourage Davidson’s administration to state plainly the justification for the three year waiver. I believe a broad range of evaluative tools will only positively affect the student body, and we alumni should be kept abreast of the validity of the testing removal results.  

Thank you, 

Constance T. Buehler ‘82