In establishing April scholastic aptitude tests for candidates for Freshman scholarships, Harvard has taken the lead in an educational advance of paramount importance, and it is a step forward particularly vital to Harvard herself. For with the national scholarships spreading their tentacles over a number of new states next year, the aptitude tests should considerably facilitate the choice of men for these positions.
The prime value of scholastic aptitude tests is not so much as records of past achievement, but rather as barometers for predicting future worth. With all sorts and conditions of people from which to choose, the scholarship committee cannot possibly draw up examinations that will suit the scholastic training and social and environmental background of candidates all over the country. But the aptitude questions, ranging from multiplication tables to Catherine of Aragon's domestic life, by their very broadness have demonstrated their value as indicators of potential intellectual prowess.
These examinations should not, of course, be taken as a substitute for the regular college entrance requirements. The College Board examinations, by proving a man's ability to handle the discipline of routine courses, tend to weed out the fly-by-night scholars, who shine on aptitude tests but would do badly when it comes to vegetating in Widener. Thus, despite their value, the scholastic aptitude papers should not be made to take over the whole examination burden.
In setting the date for these tests in April, the committee has done a good turn to all concerned. For the College can select its candidates, at least tentatively, in June, thereby adding tot he lustre of the already bright national awards. And those who fail will not have to sit around until August building castles in the air. Thus the new tests can be taken as another step forward in the educational march, and one which reflects particular credit on Harvard.