No one wants to throw away information: the case of the SATs

A couple of days ago, the Boston Globe had an interesting story: Colleges drop SAT, but still buy names of high-scoring students.

It seems that even colleges that have, with high PR and visibility, dispensed with using SATs as a criterion for admission, quietly pay College Board, the owner of the SATs, for the names of students who have done well on the test, in order to recruit them.

Why, if the tests are meaningless?

Because, of course, the tests aren't meaningless. They just give results that people don't like. They aren't perfect, at least in the sense that they absolutely predict academic success, but they remain one of the few pieces of unmanipulated information available. Everything else, from grades to recommendations, are spun, manipulated, and gamed in pursuit of an image a large number of people have agreed to pretend is the one that actually exists. But when someone sits down with a sheet covered with those little fill-in ellipses, and starts doing a math problem, they are alone. There is no one there to put a thumb on the scales.

Not-perfect information trumps no information every time. Information is seldom perfect.  So it's no wonder college admissions offices want to use the metric they know is correlated with decent academic performance. Too bad they try to pretend they are doing something else.

This is exactly the kind of thing that irritates high-SAT-scoring science fiction fans.  They are smart, and want people to know it. And they know that, when it comes to massaging appearances, they are the ones who would have lost out.  I would bet that even science fiction fans who are political liberals would tend to be more pro-SAT than their political affiliation would suggest.

I don't know if they still have the old analogy section (long time since my last SAT). That's exactly where any SF fan would shine. After all, that's the entire basis of our literature.