Last Tuesday at President Michael Rao’s second annual State of the University address, Rao unveiled a plan to remove the requirement for high SAT scores in order to enroll at VCU if the student’s GPA is 3.3 or higher.
VCU, along with five other schools in January alone, will join 850 higher educational institutions in becoming test-optional for enrollment. Rao’s reasoning was that studies show the SATs have fundamental racial and socio-economic biases and that the SATs fail to “accurately predict how a student will perform in college.”
I’m not one to rattle the cage when an institution does the right thing. When I took the SATs in 2009, I was not tested on anything that made me unique and frankly when I was faced with the overwhelming mathematics section, I did what anyone whose knowledge in that field is quite low would do: I answered very few of the questions. Of course that was off-base. My leaving unanswered questions was a trick I had heard about where if you don’t answer them at all then the questions will not be subtracted. It still counted against me; since you receive no credit for getting the question right, it doesn’t add to your cumulative score.
The SATs are an assimilation device that speaks volumes to the truth that you either think the way that we, speaking on behalf of academia, think or you suffer your way to the top. The use of that word ‘suffer,’ is to imply that progressive, creative, unique thoughts are a gift, but a gift deferred until the people that surround you come to believe that the emphasis that you put on things which you believe what you tell them is the right way of doing things.
It’s not only the SATs prior to college that force students into the assimilation process, but the fact that once you are in college you must decide on one — maybe two if you’re motivated enough —things to put all of your efforts into to steer your education. We are human, we are young. More than likely the average college-aged student is not going to know what their calling is, especially when they’re 19 or 20.
Steve Jobs dropped out of college after his first semester. Of course Jobs is a bit of an anomaly, the truth of the matter is we may live our whole lives and never see anybody as lucky and successful as Jobs became. A year ago for Christmas I was given a plaque with one of Jobs’ most inspiring quotes from his life written on it.
“Your time is limited, so don’t waste it living someone else’s life,” Jobs said at the 2005 Stanford Commencement. “Don’t be trapped by dogma, which is living the results of other people’s thinking. Don’t let the noise of other’s opinions drown out your own inner voice. And most important, have the courage to follow your heart and intuition. They somehow already know what you truly already want to become. Everything else is secondary.”
There will be a moment in your life when the world you’ve built up around you will come crumbling down. There will be tragedy, loss and an amount of pain that you can’t contextualize until you sit in it. You can do one of two things with the chaos: You can let it eat away at you. Or, you can look at it the way I did: an opportunity to propel yourself forward. You can realize that this is the path. You’ve been lost for a while and this, no matter how devastating the moment is, is how you find your way back.
Rao taking away the SAT requirement allows us as students to stand outside of assimilation. It allows us as students to suffer less when we are able to think progressive, creative or alternative thoughts. There’s less fighting that we have to do against an institution. Now, a majority of the fighting we must do when figuring out our own paths are against the mindsets of ourselves and the rest of the dogmatic thinking the people who stand beside us do.