An equitable CUNY admissions process begins with optional SAT scores for in-state public high school students



Alberto G. | Flickr

The Editorial Board

High school students applying to CUNY schools will not be required to provide their Scholastic Assessment Test or American College Testing scores to be admitted through spring 2023 because of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a recent announcement made by the Undergraduate Admissions Office.

While this is a great first step toward a more equitable CUNY admissions process, the university should focus on permanently optionalizing the submission of SAT and ACT scores, specifically for in-state public high school students since said test scores do not fairly showcase academic potential.

This would allow students to submit their scores for consideration if they wish to, but not requiring them to.

“In light of the ongoing COVID-19 public health emergency, which continues to pose a threat to the continuity of business and education, challenge prospective students to effectively plan, and has disproportionately affected the most vulnerable communities in the City, the University would like to extend the temporary suspension of standardized testing requirements through Academic Year 2022-2023,” as per the CUNY resolution.

For applying high school students through spring 2023, this temporary suspension does relieve them of the stress, time, money and effort that comes with taking the SAT or ACT exams and submitting sufficiently high scores to their CUNY colleges of interest. However, those applying after will be left to deal with the burden that these exams impose.

This temporary suspension reveals that standardized tests like the SAT and ACT exams do not hold as much weight as they held in the past since in this present state of emergency, they are not of much importance to college admissions.

For prospective students who went to private New York high schools, out-of-state high schools or who are international students, the SAT and ACT exams should continue to be held as a measurement of academic achievement after spring 2023.

This is because these three types of schools offer very different educational experiences than the city’s public schools, which make up most of those who attend CUNY. Therefore, the GPAs that these students graduate high school with reflect something that CUNY can understand.

GPAs from other types of schools may be calculated or weighed differently, and as a result cannot be the only thing that these students get admitted based on.

Thus, for groups of students other than in-state public high school students, these standardized exam scores should continue to be required after spring 2023.

CUNY will continue “to be responsive to the uncertain and rapidly changing educational situation brought on by the current public health crisis while maintaining admissions standards through more sophisticated practices, including the use of more information from high school transcripts, with a focus on performance in key subjects, and the expansion of the use of student essays and letters of recommendation as appropriate,” according to a 2021 CUNY resolution.

For in-state public high school students applying to CUNY, their talents would be best showcased through essays, overall GPA grades and letters of recommendation. These CUNY application components will allow students to express their personalities and creativity to the Undergraduate Admissions Office.

Exams can cause anxiety and stress for students when the college application process is worrisome enough. Taking into consideration the toll that these exams can have on a student’s mental health is an important factor too when thinking about how the CUNY admissions process could become more inclusive.

Of course, this standard doesn’t apply to every in-state public school student. There are students whose academic abilities do shine through their performances on the SAT or ACT exams.

Yet, to be more open and fairer to such a diverse population of prospective students, CUNY must consider the various relationships each student has with standardized exams.

Additionally, financially disadvantaged students having to pay for SAT or ACT exam prep and fees, senior activity costs and everyday expenses places them in an unfair position to other applying students.

For CUNY to continue taking into account the circumstances of each student, they have to understand that for in-state public high school students, the SAT or ACT exam scores do not always fairly represent them and may take away their opportunity to continue their educational experience in New York.