Art By Nicole Wong
University education is expensive, which is why some students choose to graduate early or pursue a dual degree. These options, however, are privileges.
At Pepperdine University, incoming Seaver students have the opportunity to waive some General Education classes by transferring their university-level exam scores including Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate. By submitting these scores, these students have flexibility in their schedules, whether it be adding a major, taking extra classes or graduating early.
Yet, some students — mostly international — did not have the chance to take placement exams even if they wanted to simply because their high schools did not offer such programs.
While students who attended American high schools or schools with Pepperdine-approved curriculum can benefit from their accredited classes, those who attended schools without these internationally recognized programs do not have the luxury of waiving courses.
Inevitably, those unable to waive classes must plan their schedules to ensure all GE classes are taken before graduation, even if they have taken similar college-level courses during high school.
Junior Business Administration major Maneesh Tekwani graduated from a high school in Thailand that offered IB curriculum. Although Tekwani was able to transfer 12 units, including Calculus, Tekwani still had to take a calculus class at Pepperdine, when students with AP credits did not.
“I learned business application of calculus in that class. But, people who took AP Calculus were able to clear that class, and they didn’t learn the business application,” Tekwani said.
Seaver College must recognize that by adopting a system that only benefits students who have access to specific resources, they are undermining the education international students receive at their home institutions.
So, how can Pepperdine ensure equal opportunities for all students? There is a potential way to combat this problem: Implement Pepperdine-specific placement exams that are similar to the SAT II Subject Tests.
Before COVID-19 altered the admission processes such as adapting a test-optional policy and halting campus tours, Pepperdine required all applicants to submit their SAT I or ACT scores. However, the Office of Admissions never considered the writing/essay portion of both tests and the SAT II Subject Tests as core components to measure student qualifications.
Oftentimes, large research universities like Stanford University require SAT II Subject Tests as a part of their admission material because they serve as an indicator to determine whether a student qualifies for honors, specific majors or courses. In other cases, some universities use these scores to decide if a student can fulfill basic requirements or receive credit for introductory-level courses, according to College Board.
Pepperdine does not have honor schools nor selective majors and courses, therefore it makes sense for Pepperdine to not require the subject tests as a part of college application. However, if SAT II Subject Test scores are added onto a part of the admission material, it could help a lot of international students fulfill or receive credits for introductory GE classes.
In the midst of the pandemic, however, everything is changing.
College Board announced the termination of SAT II Subject Tests as a response to COVID-19 on Jan. 19. The reason for discontinuation was also because College Board favored Advanced Placement courses and exams over the subject tests. After all, both tests measured student performance on similar material.
Unfortunately, as mentioned above, not all students have access to these resources. Therefore, just as how Pepperdine offers language placement exams, it should also offer similar exams for subjects like mathematics, sciences and arts for students who did not have the chance to take college-level classes at their high school.
By offering such exams, not only can international students discover more educational opportunities but the school can recognize and pay respect to students’ educational accomplishments in their home countries.
After all, the GE curriculum at Pepperdine aims to provide “opportunities to explore cultures, values, and ideas that situate the student within the global community,” according to Pepperdine’s General Education program overview. Perhaps these are some of the qualities that international students are already equipped with just by simply being at Pepperdine.
Coming into Pepperdine with extra college credits does not serve as a barometer to determine whether a student is more qualified than others. Similarly, it should not be the reason why students give up on pursuing a dual degree, an opportunity to study abroad or take an internship.
International students make enough sacrifices when studying in the United States. Alongside domestic students, international students currently take classes in a different time-zone and in a foreign language. Perhaps Pepperdine should consider giving a more thorough look at international students’ academic achievements to recognize and grant equal opportunities.
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