The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) has a list of almost 400 colleges that have stated they are test optional for the Fall of 2021, affirming that students will not be penalized for the absence of a standardized test score for admission. Click here for more information.
Check out an interesting article by Applerouth Tutoring Services. The University of Chicago joins other test-optional colleges but is one of the first leading research institutions to make this admissions option available. Jed Applerouth looks at SAT/ACT submission stats among other test-optional colleges and also notes UChicago's new tuition free policy for families with financial need.
University of Chicago Makes Bold Moves – Drops SAT/ACT Requirement
Before we take a look at several test-optional schools in the country, let’s delve deeper into the pros and cons of this new class of school.
Pro: Numerous studies have shown that SAT and ACT scores are not always good predictors of overall academic performance. Students who score very well on standardized tests might in fact be ill-prepared for the academic rigors of college, and vice-versa. By removing tests from admission standards, colleges encourage students with potential but low scores to achieve at a level suitable to their talents. In addition, it could also discourage single-minded test prep in favor of creating a well-rounded skill set.
Con: Regardless of arguments for or against standardized testing as an admissions criterion, the fact remains that it’s well entrenched in academic culture. This means colleges who forego testing requirements might be perceived as less academically rigorous than those who don’t, discouraging high-performing students from applying. Some have also argued that test-optional policies are less about benefiting students than schools; when tests are optional, usually only students with good or great scores will submit them, leading to an artificially inflated higher average score for the school to boast about.
Pro: Many argue that test-optional admissions practices increase diversity among student bodies. A recent study by researchers from Bates College of 123,000 students at over 30 test-optional universities found that minorities, women, first-generation college students, and those with learning disabilities were most likely to apply without test scores (link). One school, Pitzer College, in CA, claims that it’s seen a “58 percent increase in diversity” while doubling the number of “students from low-income, first generation backgrounds.”
Con: Even if test-optional policies increase the accessibility of universities to low-income and minority students, it doesn’t necessarily increase the affordability. A student relying on Pell Grants who gets into a private university, whether or not they need to submit SAT scores, might still find themselves unable to attend if it’s got a $200,000 4-year price tag. However, a high SAT or ACT score can be a strong factor in some colleges offering scholarships to low-income students.
If you’ve weighed the pros and cons and have decided that you’d like to include some test-optional schools on your college list, here are examples of six well-ranked schools from the New England, Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern regions.
It is important to keep in mind the terms and procedures used by different schools. Test-optional is different than test-blind. Some colleges, like Hampshire College, are test-blind and will not consider SAT/ACT scores regardless of the score, and they will not be part of the assessment of an applicant.
There are also colleges that have test-flexible admissions. The SAT or ACT are not required if other testing is submitted, such as SAT II Subject Tests or AP test scores. At Worcester Polytechnic Institute students can submit standardized test scores or can choose their Flex Path option where students “are encouraged to submit examples of academic work or extracurricular projects that reflect a high level of organization, motivation, creativity and problem-solving ability. Examples include written descriptions of science projects, research papers, robotics or other mechanical design concepts, portfolios, or any other significant work undertaken independently or in school that the applicant believes is an appropriate reflection of his or her academic potential.” There are many variations and it is important to know the admissions process for each school on your college list.
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