Seniors, please accurately report to Naviance

January 29, 2018 — by Victor Liu

The college and career readiness platform Naviance provides a useful data set for students to determine where their GPAs and standardized test scores lie in relation to others who have gone to Saratoga High.

But no one should see Naviance as an all-seeing oracle that  can foresee all the complicated decisions that college admissions officers will make. It’s far from a simple numbers game.

Fortunately — or maybe unfortunately — the admissions process takes into account essays, extracurricular activities and recommendations on top of scores into account when deciding whether or not to accept students.

By putting too much faith in Naviance’s score scattergram, students may overestimate their chances of getting into elite schools. For example, a student with SATs and GPAs that score considerably higher than the averages for a college might feel inclined to believe that they are a shoe-in for acceptance only to later receive a rejection letter.

To make matters worse, reporting to Naviance is not mandatory or regulated. Students have the option of saying whether or not they were accepted into a particular college, meaning that those who might have been denied or waitlisted can appear as an accepted student on Naviance’s student graph. And accepted students who opt out of Naviance reporting will not appear at all. Last year, a few seniors decided to pretend they were admitted to certain prestigious universities, deliberately throwing the entire graph off.

For a highly sought after school like Stanford University (with around 77 applicants this year alone from the senior class), which admits only a handful of SHS students in the best of years, an extra acceptance or rejection on the Naviance graph has an amplified magnitude that ultimately skews the average scores of admitted applicants.

Put simply, Naviance, which is primarily useful in telling students their chances of getting into college in terms of their statistics, has serious flaws that undercut its reliability.

Furthermore, Naviance tries to assess students’ academic interests and the possible majors they can pursue through just two tests. One of those tests that they administer strikes a  similarity to the Myers-Briggs test, a multiple choice personality test that assigns people into one of 16 different categories; unfortunately, although the test sounds intuitive and useful in theory, it’s predicated on pseudo-scientific studies that are often methodically unsound and inconsistent.

Statistically, the Myers-Briggs test fails to accurately provide results too, with test takers having a 50 percent chance of falling into a different category just five weeks after taking the test. Students should not confidently entrust deciding something as important as their college major and career interests to a faulty personality test that gives them a binary choice — students can only choose one of two answers on Naviance’s version of the test.

The further argument that Naviance offers a starting point for students to explore their interests is also invalid. The other test asks students if they like to “build kitchen cabinets” or “guard money in an armored car,” giving students the three choices of like, dislike and unsure. It’s equally risky for students to decide what majors and careers they want to pursue in the future with these oddly specific questions that don’t really give students the option of submitting a detailed answer.

There are, admittedly, some merits to Naviance. The site offers a list of possible scholarships students can apply for and provide basic information about colleges such as tuition and graduation rates. But this information can be found elsewhere on the internet; Naviance just compiles all this information onto one webpage that students can easily navigate.

As most seniors eventually learn, they should not rely too much on Naviance when determining what colleges are reaches, targets and safeties. The average GPAs and SAT scores Naviance provides are inaccurate and misleading.

For those who are now receiving their early decision or early action decisions, please remember to accurately submit your results to Naviance so that this tool can become more useful and accurate for future graduating classes.

 

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