Test-Optional Succeeds

University Testing

Results are in from the first round of test-optional admissions at Lafayette and Dickinson Colleges. Acknowledging the inability of the SAT and ACT to provide accurate information about student potential, the two highly competitive schools dropped their test score requirements in 1994 (see Examiner, Winter 1994/95). Both concluded that standardized exams do not predict college success better than the high school record and qualitative measures like essays, and said they want to encourage applications from a broader range of qualified students. At other schools, such as Bates College and Bowdoin College, test-optional polices have resulted in increased applications, admissions and enrollments from minority and female students in particular.


At Lafayette, 15% of the total applicant pool chose not to submit test scores. Seventeen percent of African-Americans took the optional route, as did 21% of Hispanic students. Female applicants elected the test-optional process at double the rate of males, 20% versus 10%. The results were similar at Dickinson. Fourteen percent of all applicants, 16% of minority applicants, and 17% of female applicants (versus 11% of males) withheld scores.


At both schools, admission and enrollment rates for these students were high, showing that test-optional admissions policies are popular among highly capable students, and are especially attractive to those most affected by the tests' biases. Research at Bates, Bowdoin and other optional schools finds the performance of non-submitters to be equal to that of students admitted with test scores. Based on the experience of other schools which dropped their test score requirements, the number of non-submitters should increase as the new policy becomes better known.


Two hundred and thirty-five four-year colleges and universities now do not require undergraduate applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores. Send an SASE (.32?) to "Test Score Optional" at FairTest for a free copy of the list.