Among the many arguments out there about why it’s time for the SAT, ACT, and any other college admissions tests to go, there’s one that barely gets any air time: These tests do nothing to help select the future trailblazers who will think outside the box, create disruptive companies and nonprofits, and shake up the world.
This is exactly the type of kids our world will need as tomorrow’s leaders. But these very same kids might not be great test takers. It seems wrong to have a major determinant of who gets accepted at colleges and universities around the country to be something that keeps many talented, creative people out of those schools.
Without using a test as a significant marker for admission, colleges will be able to admit students who may not be good test takers, but who:
(1) have demonstrated that they are creative and entrepreneurial because they have started an interesting business or nonprofit or done something unusual outside of school; and
(2) have demonstrated grit by mastering something hard, whether it’s playing a sport, writing music, playing chess, or running for student government; and
(3) are the top students in their grade, even if they go to an unremarkable school in a poor neighborhood, thus ensuring that they can recruit bright, hard working kids from underrepresented communities, even if they haven’t been able to afford test preparation.
Do we really only want to admit kids who are good at taking the SAT and other admissions tests? Do we really think that Elon Musk and Steve Jobs were great test takers? My husband and I were both good test takers, and both went to elite universities. Our kids were not particularly great test takers, and yet they are both just as smart, and more creative, more interesting, and more entrepreneurial than we were.
I have a lot of respect for kids who are great test takers. They are probably also great students who learned to work hard and do what they’re asked. They will all probably do well in life; perhaps they’ll go into finance, law, medicine, or into large, established companies. I’m sure they will be appreciated by their employers and have successful careers. Of course they should be admitted. But that isn’t the only kind of student that colleges should want to admit. Colleges and universities should also want kids who think outside the box, who are going to shake the world, who will create disruptive companies and nonprofits…but who may not be great test takers.
I interviewed seventy successful entrepreneurs for my just-released book, Raising an Entrepreneur: How to Help Your Children Achieve Their Dreams; 99 Stories From Families Who Did. Some were excellent students from kindergarten on; one-third graduated in the top of their class from elite universities; and some were great test takers. Others were terrible at tests and struggled with school. Twenty percent didn’t graduate from college, largely because they wanted to work on building a company they had already started while they were still in school. And also because, for some, it wasn’t a good fit. But top colleges should also want to admit kids like them, because they are changing the world with their innovative approaches to the products and services they have created.
So I urge all colleges and universities: Drop the SAT now so you can admit more students who will change the world: create amazing companies; start incredible non-profits; will become great actors, movie directors, or songwriters; and who will champion causes that will have an impact. Most importantly, drop the SAT so you will have a diverse class. Not only diverse in terms of race and socio-economic background, but also diverse in terms of how the students think and learn – and diverse in terms of what careers they will have, what they will do with their lives, and what they will contribute to the world.
Margot Machol Bisnow is the author of Raising an Entrepreneur: How to Help Your Children Achieve Their Dreams- 99 Stories from Families Who Did.