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Columns

Your Choice, Harvard: It’s either Me or the SAT

A School Outside Boston

By Yona T. Sperling-Milner, Crimson Opinion Writer
Yona T. Sperling-Milner is a freshman in Hurlbut Hall. She looked straight at the eclipse because the system can’t keep her down. Her column “A School Outside Boston” runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays.

After racking my brain for hours, I’ve finally found just the word to describe Harvard’s return to standardized testing: ✨problematic✨.

No offense, but I’m really not standardized, and I don’t think you’re going to be able to capture who I am as a person, an artistic creator, a friend, and a grassroots changemaker, in a test where I could literally be given the same exact score as thousands, if not hundreds, of other people.

If you meet me, you would understand just how ridiculous it is to judge whether I deserve to go to Harvard solely based on my talents or life accomplishments. There is just some indelible special quality about me that supersedes my inability to perform basic algebra, fill in a bubble sheet correctly, or remember to bring a No. 2 pencil.

Sad to say, when I walked up to the “proctor” to ask for my special accommodations, she told me that my suitcase and spa pass were unnecessary because “accommodations” just meant that I had to sit in the testing room for several more hours since I never got around to learning to read.

Also, as I’ve been learning in the massively expensive summer program with the elephants that I joined to demonstrate my sense of social responsibility, the SAT is deeply inequitable.

It is a pedagogically antiquated and socioeconomically biased metric of purported scholastic aptitude, which marginalizes those whose learning abilities are judged as “inferior” by the standards of the white western heteropatriarchy, and inherently privileges those students who, through no merit of their own beyond the fortuitous circumstances of their birth, are raised in environments replete with enriched educational provisions and culturally specific knowledge that aligns with the test’s curricular expectations, thereby disproportionately disadvantaging individuals from lower socioeconomic backgrounds who, despite possessing equivalent or superior intellectual capacities and academic potential, are systematically precluded from demonstrating their true capabilities, perpetuating a cycle of educational inequity that undermines the very meritocracy the test claims to uphold.

And this effect is only exacerbated by inequitable access to educational resources, something which will not change until someone invents a universally accessible and free high-quality online test prep course that has been proven to increase scores by an average of 115 points.

Also, Mr. Admissions Person, I’d prefer it if you would stop putting so much emphasis on my grades. Or, not “my” grades, but the grades assigned to me by a system that consistently values arbitrary factors like timeliness and accuracy over what really matters: kindness and diversity, for starters. I hate that your application form reduces me to an essay that ChatGPT and I wrote five months ago, and it’s honestly so capitalist of you to try and equate human beings with the products of their labor.

Not to mention my tear-jerker of a life story.

When I was 10, my parents went to marriage counseling. My dad’s dad is Irish. Or, as my college counselor suggested I put it, I grew up in an unstable home in a diaspora family pushed from its homeland as a result of acute starch shortages, and I surround myself with a diverse community that continually teaches me to be accepting of difference.

I think we can all agree that there’s a natural connection between attending an academically rigorous institution and having a life story straight out of an “America’s Got Talent” opening montage. It just makes sense: hard life, hard classes. And if you start reemphasizing standardized tests, how will we learn to market our trauma for gain?

I’ll tell you who deserves to go to Harvard: people who deserve to go to Harvard. That is me 100 percent. I was born under an incredibly auspicious star sign, with such grace and glowing golden radiance that the doctors said I had “jaundice.” My first sentence was “I’m not like other girls.” Going to the greatest university in the world is literally my birthright.

Besides, you can’t credibly claim that my SAT score is a predictor of how “well” I’ll “do” in “college.” Most of my time will be spent partying and paying other people to do my laundry, and I have those skill sets locked down.

Yona T. Sperling-Milner is a freshman in Hurlbut Hall. She looked straight at the eclipse because the system can’t keep her down. Her column “A School Outside Boston” runs bi-weekly on Tuesdays.

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