Dec 3, 2011

Another College Goes Test-Optional

Clark University is joining the growing list of institutions electing to make the submission of standardized test scores an optional part of the admissions process, beginning with the class enrolling in the fall of 2013.

“By taking a holistic view of a student’s capabilities, character and promise, we can give more weight to his or her four-year academic record—strength of the high school, the rigor of the curriculum, grades, class rank, writing skills and outside-classroom activities,” said Don Honeman, dean of admissions and financial aid. “This approach will allow us to better identify those students who will thrive at Clark and beyond.”

Clark’s decision to institute a test-optional policy follows an extensive study conducted by the university and comes on the heels of similar announcements made this year by DePaul University, Anna Maria College, Earlham College, Nichols College, Moravian College, and Bryant University.Link

Locally, both Salisbury University and American University have reiterated plans to continue successful test-optional programs for the future. And George Mason University, which supports test-optional admissions for students with GPA’s of 3.5 and above, continues to stand by its policy.

“We are actually the only public institution in the state of Maryland that has a test-optional policy which allows students with a 3.5 or higher to choose whether or not they would like to submit their scores,” said Aaron Basko, Salisbury University director of admissions, in a recent interview (see below) for Higher Education Today. “Those institutions that are leading and looking at test optional policies are those who really see as part of their mission this idea of looking at the whole student … for that sense of fit.”

Both the SAT and ACT have come under increasing criticism for their failure to predict college success. A recent study conducted by the National Bureau of Economic Research suggests that two of the four parts of the ACT—science and reading—have “little or no” ability to help colleges forecast whether applicants will succeed.

And in a revealing look at high-stakes standardized admissions tests, a new book titled SAT Wars: The Case for Test-Optional Admission, demonstrates the mostly negative impact of the tests. Edited by Wake Forest University Professor, Joseph Soars, the book outlines new evidence of gender and racial bias in sections of the SAT and suggests that both the SAT and ACT are weak predictors of grades.

Because of these issues, the list of colleges and universities implementing test-optional policies continues to grow to about “one-third” of all four-year colleges and universities, according to Bob Schaeffer, of FairTest. In his interview with Steve Goodman for Higher Education Today, Schaeffer suggests that at least two “Ivy League” colleges are “evaluating their admissions policies right now.”

As a service to students and families, FairTest publishes a complete list of about 850 four-year colleges that do not use the SAT or ACT to admit substantial numbers of bachelor degree applicants. The list, including a number of "test-flexible colleges and universities, may be found on the FairTest website.Link

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