Malala Yousafzai has accomplished more in 18 years than the majority of people will in a lifetime, but that doesn’t let her off the hook for one dreaded teenage rite of passage: the SAT.
The teenager, who was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize last year for her courageous work on behalf of girls’ education in her home country of Pakistan and around the world, is planning to apply to Stanford University in California. Though she’s likely one of the most famous members of the applicant class, the school says she needs to take the SAT in order to qualify for admission, just like everyone else.
From Stanford’s point of view, it’s not entirely unreasonable — the school anticipates that as many as 43,000 students may apply for about 2,100 spots in the 2016 freshman class.
Despite Stanford’s insanely competitive application process, though, it’s hard not to see the irony of a university forcing one of the world’s most famous education advocates to take a standardized test that many see as deeply flawed and nearly obsolete. Still, the school isn’t alone — to date, only a few top-ranked universities, including Smith and Bates, do not require SAT scores or equivalents to qualify for admission.
Malala’s supporters say that her accomplishments to date — including being the youngest ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, speaking at global conferences and summits on education and visiting schools around the world — should be enough to prove to Stanford that she’s a qualified applicant. As usual, Twitter had plenty to say about the controversy, with few people appearing to be on Team Stanford.
— Anne Spalter (@digital7dharma) September 8, 2015
Stanford is apparently demanding that Malala Yousafzai take the SATs before applying, because what’s a Nobel Peace Prize, anyway?
— Jeffrey Goldberg (@JeffreyGoldberg) September 1, 2015
Oh sure, Stanford would be like, “Yeah, Malala, your extracurriculars are AMAZING, but that one chemistry grade…” https://t.co/cFXuT5Z3ty
— Scott Renshaw (@scottrenshaw) September 4, 2015
Others have pointed out that she already took the GCSE, a series of tests that serve as a kind of UK equivalent of the SAT, and scored high enough that it’s unlikely the US test will pose much of a challenge. Malala and her family have been living in England since she was brought there for medical care following a failed assassination attempt by the Taliban in 2012, when she was 15 years old.
Malala reportedly hopes to major in politics and philosophy in college, with an eye toward a future political career, inspired in part by Benazir Bhutto, who served two terms as Pakistan’s prime minister and was the first female elected leader of a Muslim country.
“If I can serve my country best through politics and through becoming a prime minister then I would definitely choose that,” Malala said in an interview with the BBC.
She’s said she’s also considering applying to Oxford University, closer to home and her family in the UK. While it’s hardly an easy school to get into, at least they probably won’t ask her to take any more tests.