Academies and SAT/ACT scores

Research from the Brookings Institution has criticized the SAT as favoring the economically advantaged. Even worse, the report has shown some SAT questions are racially inequitable. This research has pushed many colleges to consider “test-optional” policies.

Covid only accelerated this trend. As many as 1,300 colleges in the United States went “test-optional” in 2020.

So, how does this relate to the Service Academies? Will Academies go test-optional to be more advantaged to the disadvantaged?

The most recent research coming out of Dept of Defense (DoD) think tanks such as RAND have shown that a higher SAT score positively correlates to academic success at the Academies.

Academy Endeavors believes we should expect the Academies to be the last colleges to go test-optional. This is for 3 reasons:

  1. While it could always be better, the Academies have a system that is fairly decent at admitting young people from economically disadvantaged families. Because of their Prep Schools and Foundations, they have a way to pay for a 1-year military prep year for about 200 candidates each year who will be great future officers, but have lower test scores or GPAs. They also have roughly 9% of the class come from the enlisted ranks, and another 15% of admits each year are 1st generation college students.
  2. The Dept of Defense provides a full scholarship to every Academy student at a whopping $300,000 per year. Admitting students that don’t succeed at the Academies is costly.
  3. The Dept of Defense relies on Academies to provide a certain number of officers to the Armed Forces every year. These policies could cause a ripple effect where, 4 years later, there are less officers coming out of Academies than expected. There’s already a problem with attrition. Only 75% of the incoming class is expected to graduate 4 years later. The risk of the test optional change leading to higher attrition puts future officer personnel levels at risk.

The implication for Academy applicants is this: study your butt off for the SAT/ACT. At roughly 40% of your admissions score, it’s worth it to be intentional and maximize your score. Any investment you make to get a higher score now could lead to a fully funded Academy education later.

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