College admissions now based on dumb luck

Alexandra Williams

Due to test cancellations amid the COVID-19 quarantine, the UCs and CSUs announced on—no joke—April 1 the suspension of SAT and ACT requirements for the class of 2021. In addition, these schools have stated that GPAs from junior year will no longer weigh heavily in the admissions process.
However, many students are concerned about the effect COVID-19 will have on the 2021 college admissions process, even though the cutting down of admissions requirements makes things easier and less worrisome for students.
Since neither academics nor standardized test performance indicates future student success, colleges can just draw the names of their next year’s students from a hat. Name drawn? Hello, Harvard. Name not drawn? Thank you, California, for your excellent community college system.
Drawing names from a hat means that every student will have the same opportunity to get into college regardless of socioeconomic status, ethnicity, athletic ability, or academic achievements. Further, drawing names from a hat eliminates most opportunities to lie on applications, cheat on standardized tests, or bribe those who draw from the hat.

Abolishing SAT and ACT requirements makes studying for the SAT obsolete. Photo by Alexandra Williams.

The class of 2021 will be the guinea pigs for this lottery. And, with any luck, it’ll be used forever.
Oh, did you prepare for standardized tests? I’m sorry! You took your standardized tests early? Too bad for you! All that time and money? Wasted.
And those students who slaved to earn high grades in their classes? Their efforts don’t matter. Comparing students in the class of 2021 academically will be impossible with so many high schools switching from letter grades to credit or no credit systems.
Still, it warms my overworked heart that the powers that be of the Academic World of My Very Expensive Future finally—if rather suddenly—have embraced equality. All it took to change the status quo was a global pandemic.

Now it’s a different world. Now, the kid who copied everyone’s homework and couldn’t spell SAT has pretty much the same chance I do of getting into my college of choice.
My fellow once-high achievers, we shouldn’t be disappointed. Instead, we can be proud that we are part of the first completely fair college admissions process.
It’s possible some might object to college admissions based solely on drawing names from a hat. Those concerns are important. Drawing names from a hat seems a bit ridiculous.
But it’s not ridiculous. Utterly and all at once abolishing standardized testing requirements for college admissions, invalidating the sacrifices of thousands of students and causing the entire standardized test prep industry in California to wink out may seem ridiculous, too, but it’s not. In fact, it’s not even ridiculous that a lazy, good-for-nothing, video game addict will be taking my place at a top-notch university because his name was drawn from a hat and mine wasn’t.
What’s ridiculous is that this wasn’t done sooner. Last year. A decade ago. Fifty years ago. This is a good idea now, yet it was a bad idea then? Colleges could’ve made the decision to relax admissions requirements sometime—any time—in the distant past.
I pity the students who came before me and received credit sufficient to graduate. They’ll never experience the triumph of effortlessly getting into college through what’s ultimately a game of dumb luck.