By Michelle Chernack /// Opinion Editor
Four essays totaling 10,000 words could’ve gotten you into college. That’s it. How does that sound? No SAT scores required, no transcript requested, no supplementary writing samples, just four essay-type questions to be answered for college admission. The traditional, mundane application process with endless supplements is merely an option. Now students have a choice.
Bard College, in Annandale-on-Hudson, NY, tested out a new admission process this year in which that scenario proved a reality through what they call The Bard Entrance Examination. Through this innovative system, students can submit essay responses to four questions chosen from 21 in three categories. An overall score of a B+, given by professors of the college, is the minimum required grade for admission. 50 out of just under 7,000 applicants sought out this option despite it being the first year it became available.
It’s different, very different than any other application process colleges and universities offer. Going SAT/ACT optional became a big trend some years ago. Now, that is being surpassed by this essay only route. Bard College is setting the bar.
Lewis & Clark has been offering a Test-Optional Portfolio Path since 1991 in which students can “achieve a more personal representation in the admissions process…the test-optional path allows an applicant to provide an academic portfolio demonstrative of the student’s intellectual curiosity, depth and breadth of curriculum, and overall preparation for college work.”
This option at LC is a step towards improving a flawed system. It gives an alternative to those who are not skilled test takers, but requires both analytical writing samples and quantitative/scientific work. Overall, it is an important substitute to have available as it reassures students that they are evaluated beyond the test. However, Bard is one step ahead. They give students the option to create something new, to demonstrate their creative capabilities. And if writing is not a strong suit, then too bad, maybe reconsider applying to a liberal arts college.
The entire point of this writing-based application is to scorn the college admission process as a whole–as it should be. Students should not be valued based upon a number they produce within a four hour period on a Saturday. Despite the fact that Bard College is still “grading” the student, they are giving them an opportunity to gain some control and confidence, as compared to the usual Common Application process.
Even though the traditional path is not yet eliminated, paving a new one is reflective of the values of the education system. It’s promoting the individual. Bard is reinforcing that, and perhaps it’s a sign that LC should follow suit.
In fact, Bard College has long been test-optional for all applicants. That policy remains in effect. The new, essay-based Bard Entrance Examination is simply another alternate pathway to admissions. So far, very few high school students have chosen to write five 2,000 word essays.