The List of Test-Optional Colleges and Universities Keeps Growing


Lexi Kranich

Zach Oakman studies for the SAT.

Lexi Kranich, Staff Writer

Standardized testing is a major part of applying to colleges and universities across the United States. Over two million students take the SAT every year, making it the most widely used college admissions test in the country. For many students, testing is the most difficult part of the application process. New research has created increased debate about the fairness of standardized tests.

The SAT (Scholastic Assessment Test) causes schools to give more weight to the results of one test than for a four year GPA, a resume loaded with awards, outside activities, and community service. The test fails to measure and predict intelligence, ability, school’s credibility, career choice, and future earning potential.

Testing policies are different at every school. Some schools require you to submit every score from every test you’ve taken. Some schools want your highest composite score. Some only want to see your highest score per section. Some don’t require a score at all. It can get confusing and difficult when applying to multiple schools, as requirements vary.

Recent studies from Bates College have proven that schools that no longer require a test score had an increased enrollment among underrepresented students. The report also found that high school grade point average was a better predictor of success in college than test scores for non-submitters.

As of January 2018, over 1,000 colleges and universities have stopped requiring SAT and ACT scores for undergraduates. Schools being test optional is not a new phenomenon, Bowdoin College went test optional in 1969. Many top schools such as New York University, University of Texas at Austin, Cornell College, University of Chicago, and George Washington University have recently become test optional. 56 percent of college admissions leaders said they think the University of Chicago’s recent decision to make test scores optional will lead other schools to do likewise. James G. Nondorf, the Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at the University of Chicago, said, “testing is not the be-all and the end-all, one test score should not scare students off who otherwise qualify.”

There is no official reason as to why schools are going test optional. However, colleges promote that it gives students the chance to opt out of tests with a known racial, gender, or socioeconomic bias. It is still unclear whether this holds true. Pitzer College in Claremont, California, says diversity rose by 58 percent when they went test optional, but they do not define what they consider to be diversity. A study in 2014 of 180 liberal arts colleges found no greater enrollment among low-income and minority students when schools made test scores optional.

Critics of the SAT say that it’s not a good predictor of college success. Hampshire College completely banned applicants submitting scores in 2014. They claimed, “some good students are bad test takers, particularly under stress, such as when a test may grant or deny entry; multiple choice tests don’t reveal much about a student.”

Supporters of the SAT say it offers an important data point among the many academic factors that colleges consider. The College Board says that the test is always changing to reflect current academic skills, curriculum, and readiness. Standardized tests can also be an application booster. Also, there is little hard evidence that lower income students face a disadvantage.

Most schools that no longer require standardized test scores will still consider them in the admissions process. Colleges and universities are constantly putting much less emphasis on test scores. Many have made the test entirely optional. The change comes as more schools begin to question the usefulness of a standardized test to predict college readiness.