Editorial: Bard’s new admissions choice highlights ambiguity of assessing applicants

By The Pitt News Editorial Board

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Every high school student hoping to someday enroll in a college or institution of higher education must enter the somewhat dreadful and life-draining process of taking the SAT or other aptitude tests, filling out numerous supplements and bending over backwards for college application requirements. Bard College seems to have separated itself from this tradition at the risk of further complicating the process.

Bard, which is located in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, will no longer give applicants the sole choice of submitting traditional requirements under the university’s admissions choices, but rather, will allow them to submit four, 2500-word essays as an evaluation of how ready students are to complete university-level work.

The Bard Entrance Exam, as the university refers to this new process of admission, bypasses traditional requisites and offers students the choice of writing their four essays from one of three categories: social science, history and philosophy; arts and literature; and science and mathematics.

Applicants who score a composite B+ or higher on the essays will receive admission and must submit a general recommendation letter and transcript. Applicants who score a B are welcome to submit the Common Application, on which Bard still does not require the SAT, as a complement to their application.

This additional option by Bard should be lauded. Diversifying the application process in terms of offering students choices to play to their strengths can help students market themselves adequately and help a university realize whether students are capable of completing university coursework.

However, Bard, among other institutions entertaining similar ideas, should be wary of such an initiative.

How will Bard evaluate students who choose this option compared to applicants who choose the university’s additional options? Does setting the bar of admission at a B+ or higher for this option mean that this grading scale must serve as the standard for applicants who choose more traditional means? By implementing different criteria for students to meet, given that the requirements of these options test different talents and skills, the chance of an unfair, unequal evaluation of the student’s application is something to consider.

Steps to implement another application choice that not only helps students play to their advantages, but attempts to bridge the gap between application requirements and their indication of how ready an applicant is for college are welcomed. However, institutions deliberating over such a step should ensure that the ambiguities between these standards are ironed out. 

 

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