Growth in Numbers: Test-Optional

Joe Kottke, Editor-in-Chief

  Test-optional schools are on the rise in the United States with over 1,000 colleges and universities adopting the policy, according to FairTest.
  Gustavus Adolphus College began their test-optional policy in 2012, according to Senior Associate Dean of Admissions Bob Neuman.
  This change came in part due to access. According to Neuman, testing favors certain groups over others. “Test-optional policies brings other talents besides academics together, like musicians and volunteers,” said Neuman.
  Since 2012, historically underrepresented groups have become more common, the application pool has grown, and the overall GPA has risen, according to Neuman.
  One step beyond test-optional, Hampshire College will not even consider test scores.
  “We’ve been test-blind since our founding in 1965 and as far as I know, we are the only school that uses this,” said Hampshire College Associate Director of Admissions Lizzy Dorrell. “Among many success indicators like work ethic, motivation, empathy, and growth mindset, we were surprised to find how little the SAT and ACT predict success. In fact, there was no correlation—positive or negative—between these scores and success at Hampshire College.”
  According to Dorrell, Hampshire College is unranked in U.S. News and World Report because a major factor they use in their college rankings is average SAT and ACT score.
  “The absence of scores lets us see someone’s full academic journey much more clearly,” said Dorrell. “It has affected our incoming class demographics, increasing the number of first-generation students and students of color.”
  “Since DePaul University’s humble beginnings, our mission has always been to serve the community and underrepresented populations,” said Depaul University Assistant Director Oscar S. Cid del Prado. “Years of research have found that standardized testing does not fully and accurately provide the student’s college preparedness and success. It most definitely is not designed for all minds.”
  According to Prado, Depaul receives over 500 test-optional applications, from Minnesota, but only less than a third of those applicants are admitted.
  At University of Arizona—another test-optional school—test scores are required for merit scholarship consideration, as well as admission to the honors college and colleges of fine arts, nursing, architecture and engineering, according to Midwest Senior Regional Recruiter Kenya Taylor.
  “Test scores may be requested during the admissions comprehensive review too,” said Taylor. “Additionally, test scores are required for home educated freshman applicants and transfer applicants who are under the age of 22.”
  Neuman recommends not submitting test scores if they are low compared to grades. “Four years of high school success is a better predictor of college success than a couple hours on a saturday morning,” said Neuman. “ACT wants you to spend as much money as you can. It puts a lot of financial pressure on students.”
  According to Neuman, Gustavus’ acceptance breaks down to 15% test-optional students admitted.