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  • College Admissions

    It's About Matching, Not Ranking

    Each year, The Princeton Review works with about half the students applying to colleges and graduate schools through our website, courses, and books. We're trying very hard to create a meeting place for admissions, where students, parents, counselors, and colleges can make the process less stressful and less expensive. We encourage students to think less along the lines of, "Where can I get in?" and more in terms of, "Where will I fit in?"

    A lot of people know us for our college lists. Our annual ranking lists based on our surveys of 120,000 students, report on every detail of college life we think applicants need to know to choose the college best for them. We publish the results in our Best Colleges book and on our site.

    We know that the more information that families have about colleges–including what it's like to be a student there and how students fare after college–the more equipped they will be to make good decisions. We've never believed that it's useful to anyone to collapse all the dimensions of college–going or college quality, to a single number that obscures more than it reveals.

    Early Decision

    Early decision has become a noxious part of the admissions process. It has forced students to think about college much earlier, speeding the growth of misguided efforts like the sophomore year PSAT, and has tilted admissions success towards wealthier applicants who don't need to weigh their financial aid packages in making their decisions.

    As the number of 18–year olds grows, though, and as more go to college (in 1980, 54% of high school grads went to college; now, almost 70% do), we see the need for a more flexible admissions process. We believe that the right answer would create more of an evolving dialogue between schools and students rather than a race to the finish line. This would likely take the form of a rolling or multi–stage matching process, beginning no earlier than January of senior year.

    It's About K–16

    More and more states are administering increasingly rigorous high school exit exams or subject tests, on which students' performance determines whether or not they receive a diploma. We believe that such tests make the SAT and ACT redundant: why take one standardized test to get out of high school and another to get into college? We can save time, stress, and expense by using enhanced state tests, which (because they're tied to high school curricula) will be better predictors of college success than the SAT or ACT have ever been.

    Affirmative Action

    Affirmative action in principle permits the admission to selective universities of lower–scoring applicants from underrepresented groups who otherwise demonstrate academic promise. Affirmative action in practice has always been closely tied to admissions test-score disparities. For example, admission of lower-scoring athletes and children of alumni is, and has been, commonplace.

    Critics of affirmative action argue that overlooking the lower scores of minority applicants is unfair and wrong. But allowing low test scores to be a barrier to these applicants requires a faith in and over–reliance upon the very tests that The Princeton Review has consistently criticized as being both flawed and limited.

    We have always maintained that tests like the SAT and ACT mostly measure how good one is at taking the test. We believe that the leading admission test, the SAT I, doesn't fulfill the sole rationale for its use: significantly adding to the high school transcripts' prediction of first–year college grades. We have shown that test scores can increase significantly as a result of test preparation, indicating that these norm-referenced tests are not a consistent, reliable measure of anything meaningful.

    The Princeton Review has long advocated for better admissions tests, and for limiting the weight those tests are given in the admissions process. Barring promising minority applicants solely on the basis of their test scores is contrary to our expertise and our experience. We therefore support the affirmative admission of minority applicants whose test scores may be lower than those of their white counterparts. Used in more than 40 states, this remains a responsible component of enhancing minority access to competitive universities, a goal which we wholeheartedly support.