CSAT champs rejected in early admission

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CSAT champs rejected in early admission

A surprising two-thirds of students who received perfect scores on the 2015 College Scholastic Ability Test (CSAT) were not accepted to college through the early admissions process, the JoongAng Ilbo has found.

According to a study by the newspaper, of 27 college-bound students who received perfect scores on the CSAT, 15 applied to their top choice in schools via early admissions.

However, only four were accepted to those universities through the early admissions process.

The other students applied through the regular admissions system, largely because their perfect CSAT marks likely give them a better shot at enrollment to top universities via regular admissions, which places most of its emphasis on the standardized exam scores.

There were nearly twice as many students who applied to schools through the early admission system this year, with 243,820 applying early compared to 135,774 through regular admissions, according to the Korean Council for University Education.

Important factors for early admission include the student’s academic transcript, teacher recommendations, club activities, volunteer work and an interview, the largest determinants. Individual colleges also administer their own essays and written or talent-based examinations.

By comparison, CSAT scores are weighed most heavily for regular decision applicants. Medical and educational schools also offer interviews, but these are not as heavily weighed.

“This clearly shows the trend that a perfect score on the CSATs doesn’t work in the early decision process,” said Lee Young-deok, head of the Daeseong Academic Development Research Institute.

“Schools that are particularly favored by students - Seoul National University, Yonsei University and Korea University - accept over 70 percent of students through early decision,” Lee said. “It’s difficult to guarantee the acceptance of anyone through the early decision system, which is based on paradigms that weigh advantages and disadvantages differently.”

Most of the students who applied for early decision and were not accepted applied to Seoul National University (SNU), the country’s top school.

Five of the perfect CSAT scorers applied to SNU’s pre-med department.

This year, Gyeongsin High School in Daegu produced four students who received perfect CSAT scores, but two did not get in to SNU’s pre-med program, their top choice.

“They all had top grades and participated in a medical lab class to write their essays and received school prizes, so their rejections were not expected,” said Park Yong-taek, a college admissions coordinator at the school.

Even admissions experts admit that it is difficult to predict which students will get into SNU early decision, as top students nationwide are vying for acceptance.

“In contrast to regular admissions, by principle, we select students for early admissions looking less at number-based ‘specs’ and more at recommendations, essays and we look for students who studied out of their own curiosity and drive,” an admissions official at SNU said.

Four students who got perfect scores who applied early for Yonsei University’s economics, administration and pre-med departments were also rejected.

Yonsei conducted its essay test ahead of the CSAT last November. This year, the university heavily considered the essay test, at 70 percent, with academic records accounting for 30 percent.

The CSATs this year were also considered to be easier than in previous years, producing more high-scoring students who may not have been considered within the top percentile. Their academic records were not up to par compared to previous years, experts pointed out.

Other changes may also be implemented in the coming years following the Ministry of Education’s announcement last month that it will adopt an absolute grading system for the English section of the CSAT starting in 2017, which would see the exam’s bell curve system ditched for the first time in its 20-year history.

“Taking into consideration the movement to introduce an absolute grading system for the CSAT English sections, there is a high likelihood that the importance of CSAT grades in the college application process will be reduced in the future,” said Kim Myung-chan, board director for the Jongno Academy, a private education institute.

“Universities that worry about the lack of distinction [between students’ abilities] will put a greater emphasis on students’ academic records and essays,” he added.

BY CHUN IN-SUNG, YOON SEOK-MAN AND KIM KI-HWAN [sarahkim@joongang.co.kr]

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