I am a high school senior.
In less than a month, I will send out my first applications to colleges, the culmination of eighteen years of hard work in and out of school to prepare myself for this endeavor and the beginning of (hopefully) many years of working in a career that I enjoy, educated and ready for this workforce from the amazing education that I will have received from a top-notch university.
See, my transcript has everything - grades from my AP classes as well as the exams, my SAT score and subject test scores, and even my eligibility for the National Merit Scholarship, a prestigious award sum of money given to students who scored exceptionally highly on the PSAT junior year.
And, with this transcript, College Board smiles with satisfaction. Because I am another student who has fed them my money, and, in return, I get to check off my checklist of items that College Board has deemed "essential" to be admitted to college. Hopefully, prepared as I am, I do in fact get admitted to college.
On the general transcript that includes rigorous course load and grades, SAT tests and extracurriculars, only one of these items is not controlled by College Board, a for-profit corporation that, well, holds in its hands your college admissions by telling you which of their products to spend your money on in order to get admitted. A classic example of this are AP exams - once they became established with a suitably large course catalog, everyone preached how these tests and their exams were now essential to getting into college since these were the new "rigorous courses". Today, there is a free-for-all in terms of loading up on APs among students seeking the top tier of schools, and a representative from a very prestigious university whom I saw speak earlier this month casually mentioned that her school expects 9-12 AP classes to be considered. This loading-up of workload is greatly damaging students' mental health, students' extracurricular hobbies and interests and, of course, are making College Board money - each AP exam costs about $92 to register for.
Now that AP scores and classes are so commonplace, many highly-ranked schools like Dartmouth are ceasing to give college credit for having completed them, although AP classes are marketed as "college level" - likely due to the fact that the teachers must both cram large amounts of information into students' heads AND teach to the test in May, resulting in a lacking quality of education. With this signalling doom, College Board has rolled out its AP Capstone Diploma, likely trying to compete with the IB Diploma; it requires two specific AP courses (Seminar and Research) and four others, and it boasts "college readiness" once again. Since this is a very new program (since 2014), there are few participants right now, but, since this is College Board and they control everything monopolistically, I am very certain it will catch on. And oh? 6 AP exams? Do I hear College Board being $552 richer?
And speaking of competition, what do they really have to worry about? The SAT has always outpaced its own viable competitor, the ACT. Although it originally stood for the "scholastic aptitude test", research has deeply disproved the idea that the SAT correlates to better performance in college. Yet the SAT continues to be a hallmark of high school, the single variable that kids somehow believe makes or breaks an application. And College Board encourages this, since this stress encourages kids to take the test multiple times... and include subject tests, the new thing that apparently everyone "must have" in order to go to college. In fact, the PSAT (a "free practice test" for the SAT that also qualifies you for National Merit Scholarship, which is awarded to very few students across America) is administered nationally in schools, ensuring that kids think of the SAT first when they think of college prep tests instead of going to the ACT. Cha-ching.
But the SAT madness doesn't stop there - test prep is an entire industry, creating an even larger gap between the classes as the upper classes spend and spend on tutoring and other resources for these tests, subject tests and even AP exams. Where AP exams are offered in lower income schools, teachers often lack materials, time or experience to teach properly, and a disproportionate amount of students fail, creating another gap, potentially hurting these kids' chances at college and, more than anything, hurting their self-esteem and self-confidence. And, especially since both the SAT and the AP exams are graded on curves relative to other test takers, this difference in preparation has an even larger impact than it may first appear.
For an organization that claims it wants to "expand education", College Board has done the opposite. Lower income areas that would benefit most from better education just fall further behind, and the higher income areas that can offer these classes have extreme rates of teenage mental illnesses from the stress of competition with their classmates. Yes, one free school-day testing of the SAT is available in September for seniors only, but this is another way for students who otherwise could not have afforded the $50+ to take test to fall behind their classmates who took it twice more than them.
And non-profit? That's funny, given that the CEO of College Board makes roughly $750k a year and the top 20+ executives make over $300k a year. Where does this money come from? US. ME. YOU. Because no matter how annoying it is, you cannot be competitive for top schools right now without AP exams or the SAT. You cannot get around their influence, their soul-sucking control over everything in our education. This corporation - this business - has literally monetized our futures. And we have - and will continue to - allow it.
Oh, and by the way? Sending your score reports also costs money - $12/additional report. So even after you've already spent your money with them, jumped through all of their hoops to get your application perfect for your schools and sold your soul to the abyss that is College Board... they get you one more time.