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I'm a low-income high school student. I worry colleges reinstating the SAT requirement will ruin my admissions chances.

Marium Zahra   

I'm a low-income high school student. I worry colleges reinstating the SAT requirement will ruin my admissions chances.
  • The college admission process concerns me as top colleges reinstate the SAT requirement.
  • As a low-income minority student, I can't afford expensive resources like test prep and tutoring.

College applications are something that stays on my mind all the time. As a high school sophomore, I have taken every AP class that is offered by my school, gotten straight A's, and maintained a high GPA to ensure my work pays off come college decision day.

But even doing everything I can, I feel my fate is still uncertain and anxiety-inducing. Do I have enough clubs? Am I as impressive as some of my other high-achieving peers? Recently, a new concern has taken over my college apprehension: SATs.

In 2020, many top colleges made standardized testing optional for the college admission process due to the COVID-19 pandemic. However, in January, Yale and Dartmouth reinstated standardized testing — like the SAT and ACTs — as a requirement for college applications.

This change makes me increasingly worried about my chances at some of my dream schools — especially as a low-income, minority student.

I can't afford SAT prep

Being a low-income student, doing well on the SAT is not easily achievable because of how the exam is structured. To me, it seems like the exam measures your ability to beat the test instead of your knowledge of the material.

In order to do well on the exam, you have to prepare the test structure rather than the content. This means studying SAT strategies and having a plan of action ready for test day. From thousands of prep books to specialized tutors, many resources exist to help students do just that. The only problem is that these resources are completely out of my price range.

My low-income family cannot afford pricey preparation materials and private tutors, especially not for long periods like SAT prep requires. I am unable to seek help from my immigrant family because of their unfamiliarity with the wording and structure of the exam. Plus, my high school does not have the money to pay for test prep or afford high-caliber resources.

It is a culmination of these factors that makes me truly realize how much students in minority communities are held back from their academic goals.

It feels as if achieving an impressive score on the exam is still out of reach, no matter how hard I study. It's hard to cope with the fact that my application will be deeply affected by something I cannot control.

The SAT doesn't offer an equal playing field

It doesn't feel like an equal playing field. Unlike me, students from higher socio-economic backgrounds can afford the SATs because they have the resources to do well on the exam. I fear that my inability to afford prep will make my college applications look sub-par compared to my higher-income counterparts. My goal is to have an application that matches other high-caliber students, but I am not sure how I can do that with lower test scores.

However, I am not someone who easily gives up, especially on lifelong dreams. In recent months, I have begun working harder in my classes, extracurriculars, and SAT studies — through every resource I can find and afford.

At the end of the day, it seems that college admissions will always come back to money. For immigrant, low-income students like myself, it seems as if we always end up with the short end of the stick when it comes to our education and, more importantly, our futures.

But when my background becomes discouraging or admissions feel like they are taking over my life, I remind myself that it's not important that I attend a top college. It only matters why, and that is to fight for better opportunities for people like me.

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