Public schools like Burlingame are feeding into the “elitism” the SAT fosters


Allison Szetu

On Oct. 14, seniors at Burlingame took the SAT despite most colleges going test optional.

Allison Szetu, Design Editor

Is the SAT a representation of how intelligent you really are? This is an age-old question that has long plagued the minds of high school students, parents and college admissions officers alike. While many schools have gone test optional due to COVID-19, the cancellation of standardized tests including the SAT has caused colleges to reflect on whether the test is necessary at all. Many colleges argue that the test fosters classism, discriminating against people who cannot afford test prep or additional help. Other schools have gone test-optional, while others, including the University of California system, have gone test-blind, meaning that they will not take scores at all. However, for students at Burlingame, test optional does not necessarily mean test optional, as many students have gone to great lengths to take the SAT even flying to different states such as Nevada and Texas. Does this mean that  we are part of the elite class that the colleges are trying to dismantle along with the SAT?


It is important to recognize that our school is one where many students can afford to partake in test preparation such as tutoring or classes. If they cannot, our counselors, teachers and access to technology can help us prepare.


On Oct. 14, Burlingame, along with several other schools in the San Mateo Union High School District held an SAT, requiring students to wear masks and sit six feet apart. We are extremely lucky to have had this opportunity, as many Bay Area students were unable to take the test at all, and students felt that this opportunity was too good to pass up. Seniors at Burlingame did not want to waste the money they had spent on test prep due to the cancelled tests this year to accommodate COVID-19, so they quickly flocked to take the test. Although this seems like the logical option, most students in other areas of the county resigned themselves to the fact that they would not be able to take the test. However, SMUHSD pushed to make the test available for students, demonstrating how centered on test scores and grades we are. 


This goes to show that the influence of Bay Area wealth can create opportunities for students that are unavailable for those in other areas — not only are our students lucky enough to be given a test unavailable for the many schools in the country currently, but students are competitive enough to take advantage of this opportunity. So how could we not take the test? We couldn’t bear to waste our money on countless hours of Princeton Review and Kaplan subscriptions, as I too am guilty of, so we took the SAT, continuing to increase the competitive caliber of our school when test scores are not even required. Moreover, the fact that we were able to take the test fosters the idea of elitism, as the SAT is designed so only wealthier school districts have students that are formidable players in the SAT. In the end, students at Burlingame and other schools in the Bay Area are a prime example of the classism that the SAT encourages. 


So, if a public school such as Burlingame is feeding into the classism that some colleges are working to fight against, imagine what more affluent schools are doing with their students now that most schools are going test-optional. However, there is simply no way to remedy this classism as pressure from parents for schools to offer students a leg up will not stop. Therefore, the best way to end classism in the admissions process is by ending the administration of the SAT.