For years, the University of Pennsylvania imposed one of the strictest Score Choice policies in the nation. Penn stood alone, with Stanford and Georgetown, in its requirement that all standardized test scores—SAT, ACT and SAT Subject—be submitted for admission. From Penn’s perspective, Score Choice, or the ability to choose from among scores which to submit, supported wealthier applicants able to afford repeated testing improved by hours of expensive test prep and enabled students to “hide” bad scores.
But proving that even the most rigid admissions offices can have second thoughts, Penn has reversed course on Score Choice for students applying for the Quaker class of 2021. With what appears to be a casual website edit, Penn will now “permit Score Choice.”
For seniors considering an application to Penn, this news is both good and bad. It’s good for those who have taken tests multiple times and may have hesitated to apply out of a concern for how admissions would view their test record. It’s not as good for students who might have changed their test-taking strategy had they known earlier that Penn would simply give-up a long-standing policy so late in the game. Regardless, the policy is almost bound to increase the number of Penn applicants—no doubt hoped for by the admissions office.
It’s worth noting that this website adjustment is the latest in a series of policy changes implemented by Penn in the area of standardized testing. Last year, Penn announced that SAT Subject Tests would be “recommended” and not “required,” with further clarification suggesting that students would be free to report only those Subject Test results they cared to report.
In other words, Score Choice got an initial foot in the door before this year’s applicants made their testing plans.
“We welcome the opportunity to review our admissions process and the role of testing,” said Eric Furda, dean of admissions, in July 2015.
At the same time Penn adjusted policies with regard to Subject Tests, a decision was made to remove the requirement to submit an ACT or “new” SAT with the essay portion.
“The decision to no longer require the essay portion of the SAT or ACT is one we considered carefully,” Furda explained. “Our internal analysis as well as a review of the extensive research provided by the College Board showed that the essay component of the SAT was the least predictive element of the overall Writing section of the SAT.”
And another nail was driven into the heart of the Penn standardized test requirements.
This year’s further step toward dismantling the policy came without fanfare or announcement. It just appeared—almost as if by whimsy or happenstance. If you weren’t looking for it, you might have missed the “Additional Information” provided at the bottom of the webpage dedicated to testing policy.
As of this writing, neither Stanford nor Georgetown has yielded on their particularly strict approaches to Score Choice. Stanford writes:
“Official scores from all test dates must be sent to Stanford directly from the ACT or the College Board (the reporting agency for the SAT) or both if the applicant has taken the ACT and the SAT. Applicants may not use the College Board's Score Choice feature or ‘hide’ any scores with either testing agency.”
Stanford relents on SAT Subject Tests by referring to them as “recommended,” and allows students to pick which scores may be submitted:
“We recommend (but do not require) that you submit official results of at least two SAT Subject Tests, as these additional scores often assist us in our evaluation process. You are welcome to submit any and all SAT Subject Tests you have completed.”
Adhering to an even stricter Score Choice policy, Georgetown clearly states on its website:
“Georgetown University does not participate in the Score Choice option available through the College Board. Georgetown requires that you submit scores from all test sittings of the SAT, ACT, and SAT II Subject Tests.”
Several other colleges do not participate in Score Choice, but none are as strict as Stanford and Georgetown.
But then again, as Penn proves, it doesn’t take much to change a long-standing policy at any time in the admissions cycle. And colleges are free to do so without making a formal announcement or otherwise alerting their various constituencies.
It’s ultimately up to applicants and his or her advisers to keep on top of what seems to be an increasingly unpredictable and fluid process.
Disclosure: Nancy Griesemer is a proud graduate of the University of Pennsylvania College for Women (CW)—a designation the university no longer uses.