There is a lot to look forward to as we enter 2016. It promises to be a very chaotic year as we consider the upcoming events – The Revised SAT, The Coalition for Access, Affordability and Success, changes in China regarding international education and the big event, the US Presidential election. While I will not comment on the latter, the other events unfolding deserve comment.
Starting in May of this year, the revised SAT will debut overseas. In the US it will come in March. Many students and their parents are already scrambling to sort out what this will all mean for applications in the coming year. Will it have an effect? Most likely, partly because it is new and there are significant changes. If you are unaware of what those changes will be, I encourage you to go to collegeboard.com or khanacademy.com to see what is coming.
Many students have been trying to pre-empt taking the new test by cramming in the old tests the last couple of months. Most students will find, however, that they cannot avoid the new version. Since many students will have taken the test several times and they will be depleting their options. Students who take the test more than three times will serve notice to the schools they are applying to that they are focusing on the old test. And while most universities have not really defined what they propose to do with the variety of test scores they will be receiving, a student may be sending upwards of five test scores – three old and two new. Sadly, the time students will be wasting may have some impact on the most valuable part of their application – school.
But the problem has been compounded by the fact that College Board cannot seem to get scores out from previous tests. November 2015 SAT scores where just released over the holidays and December, well, we hope to see the soon. Further, for those students who took the PSAT, their scores may also arrive soon, another delay presented by College Board.
What does this all mean? More anxiety, more frustration and more complexity to the application process. It also places students in an uncomfortable position of not being able to plan ahead. Most Grade 11 students will soon begin the arduous task of researching and otherwise preparing for next year. It will be a rare student who has old SAT scores who can march forward. Other students, having to take the Revised SAT, have no idea what is coming. Students who had the foresight to take the ACT are most likely in pretty good shape. But since the ACT is not really offered on the Mainland, there is an added stress. What remains to be seen is how everyone – students and colleges – sort all of this out.
I have already written about the Coalition, but one thing is true – the Coalitions intentions are good, the process and the actual reality of what the application and website will look like remains to be seen.
So we come to the final piece of this article; changes coming from the Chinese government to the international programs make it is clear that China wants to reinvigorate their education system and retain some of the lost brain drain. But they have much to do. Even with curricular changes to the GaoKao and forcing international divisions to unlink from the main schools will only create confusion. It seems unclear what definitive steps are being taken to ensure confidence in the education system. And while deriding the effect of “western values” Mainland schools will need to provide an education that meets future skills and acumen for the coming generation of students employed in a 21st Century China. At the moment, the 400,000+ students seeking education around the world have more confidence elsewhere than at home.
The New Year always brings a regeneration of ideas and resolutions. It seems that the near future is presenting conflicting challenges as family looks to understand what all these changes will mean now and into the future. My resolution for the New Year is to keep a level head. Most people do not like change. It creates a certain amount of uncertainty that promotes decisions, which are rash and often unsupported. So, while keeping a level head, I also plan to keep it simple; a great rule of life. Keeping it simple, provides space to keep a level head. Happy New Year!