Jun 16, 2010

The List of ‘Test-Optional’ Colleges Continues to Grow

Slowly but surely, colleges and universities are beginning to roll out application policies and procedures for the coming year. And, one of the most closely watched developments among admissions junkies is usually the growing list of ‘test-optional’ colleges and universities.

In general, a test-optional admissions policy establishes rules by which students may choose whether or not to submit SAT or ACT scores when applying to certain colleges. Some test-optional schools will not accept or consider test scores at all. Others require them for placement purposes only or will eliminate the requirement just for those students with higher GPA’s. Although lists of test-optional schools exist, it's always best to check directly with the individual college or university to determine if and under what circumstances standardized tests should be submitted.

So far this spring, four institutions have dropped their ACT/SAT admissions test requirements for all or many applicants. According to Fair Test, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, this brings the total to 843, including almost half of the US News & World Report “Best Liberal Arts Colleges.”

Saint Anselm College in Manchester, New Hampshire, is the most recent college to announce a test-optional policy for all applicants next year. 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.”

Also ending a requirement that applicants submit ACT or SAT results is Southern New Hampshire University. SNHU President Paul Le Blanc announced, “We have built and admissions process around knowing students personally and holistically. Standardized tests offer one vantage point…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.”

Ursinus in Pennsylvania and St. Michaels’s College in Vermont also announced test-optional policies for the fall of 2010. Ursinus Vice President for Enrollment Richard DiFeliciantonio explained that the school’s admissions research showed the best predictors for academic success at Ursinus are “high school grades and rigor of curriculum.” A point with which St. Michael’s director of admission Jacqueline Murphy agrees, “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.”

Locally, Christopher Newport University, George Mason, Roanoke College, Trinity Washington University, Goucher, Salisbury University, and St. John’s of Annapolis are among those colleges and universities choosing to deemphasize standardized tests in their admissions decisions.

According to Fair Test, more announcements about new test-optional policies are expected. At least two dozen additional colleges and universities are currently “reevaluating their entrance exam requirements.”

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