More Colleges Embrace Test-Score Optional Admissions

University Testing

Following a year-long review, the University of Massachusetts (U. Mass.) has revised its admissions process to deemphasize the role of SAT scores in the evaluation of many applicants. Beginning immediately, a large number of students — essentially the middle third of each year’s applicant pool — will be evaluated by a system which puts three-quarters of the weight on high school grade point average (GPA). Other factors to be considered include achievements, honors, and the ability to contribute to campus diversity.


U. Mass. Chancellor David Scott explained the move to the new procedures. “The research done at U. Mass. and elsewhere clearly indicates that a student’s SAT score is a weaker indicator of success at the University than the high school GPA,” he said. “Admissions procedures that rely on narrowly constructed measures of achievement often fail to assess students’ full potential for success in college and beyond.”


Scott concluded, “We must continue to assure full participation in higher education for all students who have the potential of success. Our approach builds on this University’s history of taking a more holistic view of human potential than that which is easily measured in standardized tests.”


There is, however, one warning flag on the horizon for U. Mass. Governor Paul Cellucci is pushing the university system to require applicants to post high scores on the state’s planned graduation test, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) exam (see related story), in order to be admitted.


Is Pennsylvania Next?
Fourteen campuses in the University of Pennsylvania higher education system may be the next additions to the list of schools that automatically admit high-performing high school students without regard to test scores. A 30-member planning commission has urged the system’s Board of Governors to grant automatic admission to all state residents graduating in the top 15% of their high school classes.


The plan would complement current affirmative action programs, not replace them. It would not apply to Pennsylvania State University, the University of Pittsburgh, Temple University or Lincoln University, which are part of a different state-supported system.


Kenn Marshall, a spokesman for the state universities, responded, “The advantage to using this system is that it decreases the value of using the SAT. There is a lot of argument against the SAT because it’s not reflective of what students have really learned because all students don’t do well on tests.”


The University System Board of Governors is scheduled to consider the “Top 15%” proposal this summer.