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5 colleges make major changes in test policies for 2014-15

American University, DC
American University, DC
Nancy Griesemer

In the run-up to the 2014-15 admissions season, five well respected colleges are making major changes in the way they will consider standardized test scores.

Wesleyan University joins the growing list of test-optional colleges and universities.
Nancy Griesemer

As veterans of the process well know, early summer is a typical time for schools to announce new testing policies—between enrollment decisions for the coming fall’s entering class and the beginning of a new recruitment season for rising seniors.

But this year has been exceptional, as an impressive number of colleges and universities representing different institutional size, type and selectivity are expressing votes of “no confidence” in the way tests are used in admissions.

While the College Board and the ACT bicker over which test most accurately forecasts college success, Emmanuel College, Hampshire College, Hofstra University, Old Dominion University (ODU), and Wesleyan University all announced they are taking steps to reduce the importance of test scores in how they go about admitting students to their institutions.

“The strong pace of test-optional announcements this year shows that many schools are unimpressed by the upcoming changes in the SAT and ACT,” explained Bob Schaeffer, public education director for the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest). “ More than 100 colleges and universities have de-emphasized admissions exams since the last ‘major overhaul’ of the SAT and ACT, and others recognize that the next round of revisions will also do nothing to improve the exams' predictive validity, fairness or susceptibility to high-priced coaching.”

And well over 800 colleges across the country agree, including

Emmanuel College
After studying national research and past experiences, Emmanuel announced that beginning with the class entering in the fall of 2015, applicants will not be required to submit standardized test scores (SAT I, SAT II and ACT). Students who feel their high school record alone is a better indicator of their achievement and ability may choose to exclude scores from their application without penalty. And there is no supplemental application component in lieu of test scores.

“This test-optional policy reinforces the College's commitment to understand a student's overall academic experience, regardless of performance on a single test," according to the Emmanuel website. “The admission application review process will not change significantly, as Emmanuel has always completed a holistic review of each admission applicant.”

Hampshire College, MA
As one of the first schools in the country to be test optional, Hampshire College has never required SAT’s or ACT’s , but admissions would consider them if submitted. To underscore campus “concern for fairness in access to educational opportunity,” Hampshire will now be “test blind” and will no longer consider standardized test scores in any way as part of admissions and financial aid decisions.

“It is no secret that many colleges base financial aid awards largely or partly on test scores,” said Meredith Twombly, dean of admissions and financial aid. “Financial aid should be used to support students who most need assistance, not to reward those who are good test takers.”

Hofstra University
Starting for the class entering fall of 2015, Hofstra will no longer require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores as part of their applications. The high school transcript will be the primary focus of application review—with or without standardized test scores. The only exceptions to the new policy will be for international and home-schooled applicants.

“[W]e have concluded that standardized tests are not the most important predictors of academic success at Hofstra,” explained a statement from the university. “Rather, our studies show that the best predictor of success in college is a student’s high school academic record and the performance of day-to-day work in the classroom.”

Old Dominion University
Taking a more conservative route, ODU recently announced a two-year pilot project offering students with strong academic records in high school a way to be admitted without submitting standardized test scores. Applicants with a GPA of 3.3 or higher may apply for admission without having taken the SAT or ACT. ODU’s test-flexible policy mirrors similar policies at other Virginia institutions including George Mason University (requires a 3.5 GPA , challenging academic curriculum, and an actual or estimated class rank in the top 20 percent), Hampton University (requires a GPA of 3.3 or rank in top ten percent), Christopher Newport University (requires a 3.5 GPA or rank in the top 10 percent), and Virginia Wesleyan (requires a 3.5 GPA and strong college preparatory curriculum).

“ODU’s pilot program is intended to widen the university’s applicant pool,” said Ellen Neufeldt, vice president for student engagement and enrollment services. “Standardized test scores are not as strong a predictor of success in college as high school GPA’s.”

Wesleyan University
Taking effect during the 2014-15 application cycle (including transfers entering in Spring and Fall 2015), Wesleyan will not require applicants from the U.S. and Canada to submit SAT or ACT scores as part of an application for admission. For those who choose to submit them, test scores will be reviewed in a “holistic manner,” in context of other application materials.

“We’ve always been most concerned about the day-to-day work of our applicants, in a rigorous academic program,” said Nancy Hargrave -Meislahn, Wesleyan’s dean of admission and financial aid. “This option provides students more control over their applications, how best to present themselves to the admission committee.”

For a searchable database of all test-optional, test-blind, or test-flexible colleges and universities, visit the FairTest website.