Test Optional Success Stories

University Testing

FairTest Examiner - April 2008

Salisbury University, a Maryland public campus, is reporting excellent results from the initial year of its test-optional admissions policy. One-fifth of the class entering in fall 2007 was admitted without regard to test scores. To participate in the program, applicants must have earned a high school grade point average (GPA) of 3.5 or above in college preparatory courses.

After one semester at Salisbury, the grades of test-optional admittees were actually higher than their peers who submitted ACT or SAT scores. The non-submitters also earned slightly more credits. Neither statistic should be surprising: Salisbury researchers found that the non-submitters had better GPAs, had taken more rigorous courses, and were more involved in more extra-curricular activities while in high school.

Total applicants to Salisbury rose by almost 12% with the new policy. Georgraphic and economic diversity increased. “We feel we are off to a great start,” explained Vice President of Student Affairs Ellen Neufeldt. “[T]hese students met our goals of access showing a greater percentage of students from lower socioeconomic groups while outperforming the rest of the class.”

At Lawrence University in Appleton, Wisconsin, applications also rose 12% after the very selective liberal arts institution went test-optional in 2005 (see Examiner, April 2005). Since then about one quarter of all applicants have chosen not to submit ACT or SAT scores.

The school collects test results from all those who enroll for research purposes; roughly one quarter of admitted students are non-submitters. Despite lower average test scores, Lawrence non-submitters posted roughly the same first year grade point averages as submitters. Director of Admissions Ken Anselment praised the test-optional policy for the strong results, "This ends up being a good option for ... the students who are doing very well academically in school but their test scores don't necessarily match up with their academic performance."

The new data from Salisbury and Lawrence are consistent with long-term studies at test-optional pioneers such as Bates (http://www.bates.edu/x58748.xml) and Mount Holyoke (http://www.mtholyoke.edu/offices/comm/sat/earlyresults_sat.shtml). Both schools found that their policies enhanced diversity and academic quality. William Hiss, former Bates Admissions Director and now Vice President for External Affairs, concluded, "America is apparently throwing away some substantial portion of its future talent by relying far too heavily on its standardized tests as a screening system.”

Lawrence Vice President for Enrollment Steve Syverson, Salisbury Dean of Enrollment Management Jane Dané, and College of the Holy Cross Director of Admissions Ann McDermott will discuss their schools’ test-optional experiences at this fall’s National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) conference in Seattle. FairTest organized the panel and will moderate the NACAC session.