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Should a Nobel laureate be required to take the SATs?

Malala Yousafzai, youngest-ever winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, will have to submit her SAT scores if she wants to attend Stanford University.

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Malala Yousafzai of Pakistan speaks at the World's Children's Prize ceremony in Mariefred, Sweden on Oct. 29, 2014. Malala, who has expressed interest in attending Stanford University, will first have to submit her SAT scores and compete with more than 40,000 other applicants vying for about 2,000 spots at the prestigious institution.

Anders Wiklund/TT News Agency/AP/File

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Even the world’s youngest Nobel laureate needs to ace her SATs if she wants to get into Stanford.

Malala Yousafzai, the Pakistani teen who won the Nobel Peace Prize after standing up for girls’ education against the Taliban, is preparing to go to college. She has named Stanford one of her top choices, but the university will require her to submit her SAT scores, CBS News reported, before she can compete with more than 40,000 other applicants for the 2,000 or so first-year spots.  

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The requirement has once more highlighted the paramount role of standardized testing in the US educational system – though some universities no longer require score submissions from college applicants, as The Christian Science Monitor's Beatrice Gitau reported in July. 

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As it stands, some 180 public and private colleges in the US News & World Report rankings have switched to a "test-optional" approach, with George Washington University among the most recent schools to do so.

"The test-optional policy should strengthen and diversify an already outstanding applicant pool and will broaden access for those high-achieving students who have historically been underrepresented at selective colleges and universities, including students of color, first-generation students and students from low-income households," said enrollment official Laurie Koehler in GW’s Aug. 1 announcement.

"We hope the test-optional policy sends a message to prospective students that if you are smart, hard-working and have challenged yourself in a demanding high school curriculum, there could be a place for you here," she added.

Stanford has not joined the test-optional movement, and some have criticized the university for its emphasis on scores in the face of Malala’s achievements for human rights and education – deeds that include publicly defending women’s education in her native Pakistan, founding a school for Syrian refugees in Lebanon, and urging world leaders to improve girls’ access to education.

Others, however, say that for her advocacy to be effective, Malala needs to walk the talk and be subject to the same academic standards required of all students. In an op-ed for Pakistan's Express Tribune, writer and women’s advocate Aalia Suleman wrote:

Recommended:5 snapshots of girls' education in the Muslim world

[A]ll students who are aspiring to enter a really sought after college must be academically assessed on an equal footing, Nobel Prize or no Nobel Prize.

Also, making sure she enters a university like Stanford on the basis of merit rather than "unusual circumstances" ... will garner more respect for her in the long run than she would be able to muster otherwise.

After all, if she is the global symbol of women’s education and a resonating voice for girls’ education, she has told that flag up high.

While Malala has yet to release a statement on the matter, she has said before that she is willing to earn her place at any university. "It wouldn’t look very good if the girl shot for wanting to go to school failed her GCSEs," she told The Australian last year, referring to the UK equivalent of the SATs.

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As it happened, she took the tests shortly afterward and received top marks, as her proud father showed the world:


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