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Published: Mar 22, 2021 7 min read
Woman sitting at a desk filling out a test answer sheet
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Back when many of us were high school seniors (in ancient times), we checked the mailbox every day for college admissions decisions, guessing at the content of envelopes by their thickness. Now, instead, we watch our own children obsessively refresh their email until results are posted electronically. We watch videos of these moments on social media and choke up at their joy when they get into the school of their dreams.

Do you know what we don’t watch on social media? The videos of students who didn’t get in. And while we know that disappointment is inevitable, we don’t spend nearly enough time wondering if that allocation of hope and sorrow is fair.

We in higher education have an enormous amount of power as the gatekeepers of opportunity. We have the power to create true meritocracy in America — a system where talent and hard work, and not the accident of birth, determines opportunities in life. Instead, I fear, we have been complicit in something much different. Driven by rankings pressure and the search for status, we have become reliant on standardized tests to serve as gatekeepers, even though we know they do not play fair.

But colleges and universities have a rare opportunity right now to turn what started as an emergency response to the pandemic into a permanent improvement of the system: We can start ignoring standardized test scores and help a more diverse set of students experience those moments of acceptance joy.