New Harvard Report: SAT Scores Aren’t Everything, You Know

Entrance exams are important, sure. But what about heart?

SAT photo via Shutterstock

SAT photo via Shutterstock

A new report out of the Harvard Graduate School of Education urges colleges and universities reconsider what it values in prospective students.

The report, “Turning the Tide: Inspiring Concern for Others and the Common Good through College Admissions, says that higher ed. can act collaboratively to place a greater emphasis on emotional engagement, rather than solely intellectual.

“Too often, today’s culture sends young people messages that emphasize personal success rather than concern for others and the common good,” the report’s executive summary says. “And too often the college admissions process—a process that involves admissions offices, guidance counselors, parents and many other stakeholders—contributes to this problem.”

The report—issued by Harvard’s Making Caring Common project and sponsored by 50 institutions including Amherst College, Brandeis University, Dartmouth College, Babson College, Bowdoin College, Boston College, Boston University, and Brown University— makes three key recommendations: promote more meaningful contributions to the community and the common good; assess students’ contributions across race, culture and class; and reduce excessive, at times myopic pressure to achieve.

“A healthy and fair admissions process cannot simply encourage students to devote more time to others,” the report says. “It needs simultaneously to reward those who demonstrate true citizenship, deflate undue academic performance pressure and redefine achievement in ways that create greater equity and access for economically diverse students.”

In addition, the report recommends deemphasizing the role that testing plays in the admissions process by discouraging students from taking the SAT or ACT more than twice, as it is highly unlikely to meaningfully improve scores. It also calls on guidance counselors and families to “challenge the misconception that there are only a handful of excellent colleges and that only a handful of colleges create networks that are vital to job success.”

“Ultimately, we cannot bring about a sea change in the messages our culture sends to young people unless educational institutions at every level elevate and embody a healthier set of values,” the report says. “While this change needs to start or accelerate from multiple points, we view our recommendations as one powerful place to begin. In the face of deeply troubling trends that only seem to be worsening, it is time to say ‘Enough.'”

You can read the full report here.