Test-Optional Surge Continues

University Testing

FairTest Examiner, May 2010

As the higher education application cycle begins for the high school class of 2011, more and more colleges and universities are announcing test-optional policies. Already this spring four selective institutions have dropped their ACT/SAT admissions test requirements for all or many applicants. That brings the total to 843, nearly 40% of all accredited, bachelor-degree granting schools in the country. The list (http://www.fairtest.org/university/optional) includes 43 of the nation’s “Best Liberal Arts Colleges,” according to U.S. News & World Report.

Ursinus, a highly ranked college in Pennsylvania, will not require standardized testing for all applicants beginning next year. Previously, Ursinus had allowed students ranking in the top ten percent of their high school classes or with grade point averages of 3.5 or better to opt-out of submitting test results. Vice President for Enrollment Richard DiFeliciantonio explained that the school’s admissions research showed that the best predictors for academic success at Ursinus are “high school grades and rigor of curriculum.” He also noted the strong correlation between SAT scores and family income “favoring students with the resources to take SAT preparation classes and to take the SAT multiple times.” DiFeliciantonio concluded, “Given Ursinus’s 130-year commitment to both an egalitarian culture and academic excellence, focusing on classroom performance is the right thing to do for admissions.”

At St. Michael’s College near Burlington, Vermont, students applying for September 2011 and beyond may choose whether to submit admissions test scores. “This makes official something we’ve always done in practice – and that is, focus on a holistic review of the student – his or her high school record, including strengths of program selected and grades in those courses,” said St. Michael’s Director of Admission Jacqueline Murphy. “Those factors have always been more important than test scores.”

Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, gave a similar reason for its decision to make the SAT and ACT optional for nearly all applicants. According to Dean of Admission Nancy Davis Griffin, “Six years of data show that, at Saint Anselm, the best predictor of academic success is a record of academic achievement in rigorous high school coursework. By becoming test optional, we hope to reach qualified students who may not have considered Saint Anselm.” Vice President of Enrollment Management Brad Poznanski added, “Our goal is to attract more great students, really strong students, who perceive their test scores as not being a good reflection of their ability.”

Also ending a requirement that applicants submit ACT or SAT results is Southern New Hampshire University (SNHU) with campuses in Manchester, NH, and Maine. Noting studies showing that standardized tests are not the best indicator of college success, SNHU President Paul LeBlanc announced, “We have built an admissions process around knowing students personally and holistically. Standardized tests offer one vantage point. We’re happy to add the results into the mix. But we know so much more about a student by the time we accept or deny, including their academic abilities, that not having the test scores means very little.”

More announcements about new test-optional policies are expected as the 2011 admissions cycle gets into full swing.  At least two dozen more colleges and universities are currently reevaluating their entrance exam requirements.