College Admissions: Don’t Punish Us Because a Few Cheated

Put aside the lawbreaking sense of entitlement and focus on this heartbreaking fact: Those who truly need accommodations will now live under a shadow of suspicion. That’s the real outrage.

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Why you should care

My lifelong learning disability isn’t a con, so please don’t make medically linked test accommodations even harder to obtain.

When faced with a scandal, the natural reaction is not just to fix the problem, but also to ensure it never happens again. The trouble is that scandal rarely produces smart policy. In fact, overzealous reform often ends up swinging the pendulum too far the other way.

For the latest example of this, look at the college admissions controversy. By now, you’ve no doubt heard of scam mastermind Rick Singer’s famous trick: Get students to fake a medical condition, thus allowing them more time to complete the SAT or ACT.

Those who truly need accommodations will now live under a shadow of suspicion. That’s the real outrage.

Put aside the lawbreaking sense of entitlement and focus on this heartbreaking fact: Those who truly need accommodations will now live under a shadow of suspicion. That’s the real outrage.

Some say the solution is to make it harder to obtain such testing allowances. Already, the chorus to make testing optional is growing louder and louder. I sympathize with these arguments, but as a high school junior currently preparing for the SAT, I have a different perspective. 

Before we overhaul the system, we should pause and consider how well it’s actually working. Take it from me, someone who’s had a documented learning disability since I was 4 (yes, 4 — not a month before test time): The process to get extra time is already pretty difficult.

 

Ever hear of “psychoeducational testing”? That’s what you must undergo if you claim a learning disability. First, you need to find a specialist and submit to a series of evaluations. Then your doctor needs to deliver a report. A favorable ruling isn’t a given: Even if your private therapist attests to a variety of challenges, your school may still deny your request.

Even if you are “approved,” that’s just for while at school, not necessarily for the SAT. Sometimes, the College Board requires that you complete even more paperwork. Matthew Cortland, a Massachusetts-based disability-rights lawyer, has called the accommodation-seeking process “very adversarial.”  

Then there’s the cost. Typical fees for an assessment can cost thousands, which is far too much for something so essential. While public schools are required to provide free testing, many parents prefer to hire a specialist who has the time to treat their child with the individualized care and attention they need. 

Finally, let’s remember that the parents who teamed up with Singer weren’t typical. They were rich. They were famous. And they were blatantly cheating. Again, not the best template for making changes that will affect millions of students. 

Pupils whose hearts beat a mile a minute at the thought of reading aloud, or students who have to study twice as hard to do half as well, already have a lot on their plates. Every day, they deal with a difference that makes them stand out.

I know these feelings all too well because I am that student.

And so, on behalf of all my peers from K through 12 who don’t process information in a straight and narrow way, I offer this: Don’t make our ability to learn and grow and thrive even harder than it already is. Don’t chip away at the help we depend on. Don’t punish us all for the crimes of a few.

Anna Sophia Lotman is a junior at the Crossroads School for Arts and Sciences, a high school in Santa Monica, California.

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