The difference between SAT scores of students from the lowest (<$20K) and highest (>$200K) income brackets is approximately 400 points. This point difference is mirrored in comparisons between the lowest (<high school) and highest (graduate degree) parental education levels.1
This correlation seems immutable. Parental education and income levels impact SAT scores and determine who gets into the most selective colleges. Then along came Battushig — Battushig Myanganbayar of Mongolia, that is, “The Boy Genius of Ulan Bator” — who, in June 2012, at 15, “became one of 340 students out of 150,000 to earn a perfect score in Circuits and Electronics, a sophomore-level class at M.I.T. and the first Massive Open Online Course, or MOOC.”2 His accomplishment didn’t go unnoticed, and he is now a research student at the MIT Media Lab.
Battushig is, of course, a rare exception, but his success adds to the already enormous potential of MOOCs and raises the possibility that they could become a factor in college admissions. In an editorial yesterday, Pitt News broaches this very idea: “Universities sometimes directly accept a student that excels in one of their MOOCs…. If not, the student may still choose to list the MOOC on his or her resumé under skills or relevant education. A completed MOOC is a valuable asset, comparable to a week-long leadership conference.”3
The message for parents and students is clear: MOOCs are poised to clear their current wildcard status and earn credibility as a key factor in college admissions.
1 Zachary A. Goldfarb, “These Four Charts Show How the SAT Favors Rich, Educated Families,” Washington Post, 5 Mar. 2014. Also see Josh Zumbrun, “SAT Scores and Income Inequality: How Wealthier Kids Rank Higher,” WSJ, 7 Oct. 2014.
3 “Massive Open Online Courses Better Depict Student Potential,” op-ed, Pitt News, 23 Mar. 2015.