Female college applicants’ scores on the SAT could be keeping them out of some of the most elite colleges in the country, according to a new study.
The study — from the University of Michigan’s Center for the Study of Higher and Postsecondary Education — seems to subvert the commonly held belief that women have an advantage in higher education admissions. As noted in the Chronicle of Higher Education, where we first saw this study, in 2004 “women made up more than half of undergraduates attending all types of four-year colleges except for the most-selective ones” where they were only 47% of the population.
The UMich study confirms that this distinction is still present today and helps explain why this gender disparity in elite colleges likely exists — standardized testing.
According to the study, “the evidence best supports a conclusion that women’s lower average standardized test scores, combined with the importance attributed to those scores in admissions decisions, creates de facto preferences for men that drive women’s under-enrollment in these institutions.”
While women may outperform men in a number of academic criteria, “the criteria on which women have had an advantage — high school GPA, most importantly — seemed to have a weaker influence on the odds of selective college enrollment than did test scores, on which men have had an advantage since the 1960s.” A recent study found that high school GPA was the best predictor of a student’s success after college.
The best way to cure the gender divide at elite colleges, the study argues, may be through holistic admissions standards — evaluating the a student’s SAT scores in the broader context of their full application, rather than granting it “undue importance” as an easily quantifiable test.
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