Nobel Prize winner’s application raises qualms about SATs

Malala Yousafzai, the youngest Nobel Prize laureate and champion for women’s right to education, has expressed her interest in going to Stanford University. However, Stanford has issued a statement that she will not be able to attend without taking the SATs.

The Guardian reported that Yousafzai did well on her GCSEs (the British equivalent of the SATs). Clearly, she is an extremely intelligent woman, so the SATs are unlikely to be a serious obstacle for her.

The real question here is why Yousafzai should have to take them in the first place. After all, this test is strictly a formality as I cannot imagine she would ever be rejected, even from a selective university such as Stanford.

Many others feel this way and have expressed their astonishment on Twitter. It is strange that such an accomplished young woman would be made to fulfill such an arbitrary bureaucratic requirement, especially considering the recent scrutiny on standerdized testing in general. What began as a standardized measure of intelligence for high schoolers across the nation has become a defining force in college admissions.

Jill Tiefenthaler, president of Colorado College, shared her opinion on standardized testing with US News and World Report.

“Standardized tests were never intended to measure the complexities of intelligence,” she said, “and over time they have drawn the center of gravity in college admissions away from things we value.”

What Tiefenthaler says is true. High school students spend a ridiculous amount of time, money and effort preparing for the SAT. This either distracts them from their true interests and passions, or results in stress and overcommitment.

Many top colleges in the US – Bates College, Smith College and Wesleyan University – have implemented flexible testing policies. It would not be surprising if Stanford waived Yousafzai’s SAT requirement.

One Twitter user, Rachel Syme, summed up my feelings quite succinctly.

“Sure, she is the global face of the female education movement and stood up to the taliban by herself, but how’s her reading comprehension?” Syme said.

Sarcasm aside, if Malala Yousafzai is not accepted into Stanford, then who is good enough? Winning a Nobel Prize before hitting adulthood and risking your life for a cause you believe in outweighs a perfect 2400 on your SAT.

Cassidy Neuner ’18 (neuner1@stolaf.edu) is from Carmel, Calif. She majors in history and political science.

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