July 22, 2019
NEW YORK — Following reports that Harvard used subjective criteria such as “Personality” and “Charisma” in their application process, the College Board decided to offer AP classes and exams in these same subject areas, citing that these were “essential life skills”, and that they aligned with the College Board’s mission of preparing students for college and beyond. The exams, announced Thursday, will roll out in the 2019-20 school year to select schools for a pilot before a nationwide launch a couple of years later.
The new class in Personality will feature essay-writing lessons designed to teach students how to concisely put their entire authentic selves into an essay of 300 words or less. While the curriculum varies by school, the course is focused on preparing students to present selected personality traits in order to appeal to potential employers.
The exams are targeted towards college application-esque questions. AP Personality exams require an essay describing personal experiences outside of the classroom, thus mirroring the focus on the extracurricular activity of holistic application processes used for many prospective undergraduates. Other free-response questions on this exam include a description of the student’s diversity and a student’s reasons for applying.
College Board President Jeremy Singer’s statement regarding the launch of the new AP program, which came under heavy fire by promoting “fake identity” academically.
College Board president Jeremy Singer said in an interview that these classes were “just as essential for college compared to science, math, and writing. These courses should cut down the unfair advantages wealthier students and advantaged groups have in the admissions process, as they often have more resources when it comes to essays and interviews. We want to make sure no student has an unfair edge.”
While Singer’s mission might be morally sound in theory, in practice, it is anything but. The new AP exams have already come under fire from several Asian-American student groups. Their complaints aren’t unreasonable either — one multiple-choice question asks for race on the AP Personality exam. If a student is found to lie or leave the question blank, they get a 1, however, anyone selecting ‘Asian’ gets at most a 4 according to the grading rubric. Moreover, anyone registering as Asian must pay an additional $20 registration fee to compensate for so-called difficulties in grading their essays.
When asked about this supposed discrimination, Singer said, “We’re simply trying to simulate the real world as accurately as possible. With many major universities such as Harvard embracing the stereotypes that Asians are all very generic, we figured College Board should move in the same direction.”
Unfortunately for students, they may have to deal with the College Board’s policies soon enough. Both Harvard and Yale are already requiring the AP Personality exams to have results sent in as part of the application process, if available at the applicant’s school. Many other schools appear to be following suit, too, as they look to add these exams to the standard test battery students take for college admissions, joining the SAT and ACT. The only notable holdouts from this policy appear to be MIT and Caltech, both of which claim they admit based solely on merit.
By: Daniel Ng