The number of colleges and universities adopting the test-optional policy, meaning that standardized test scores like the SAT and ACT are not required in the application, has increased significantly in the past years. Now, notable schools like the University of Chicago and Colorado College do not require these test scores for their applicants. But what does this mean for current high school students?
The primary reason for this decision by colleges is to increase diversity in their applicant pool. Countless studies over the past decade clearly show a correlation between test scores and the socioeconomic status of the students’ parents, which also connects to race. Overall, students from families with higher socioeconomic status, predominantly white, were able to score significantly higher compared to those of lower ones. This leads to unfair, discriminatory evaluation of students who cannot even afford the test, compared to students who take summer classes, study with private tutors, and enjoy other various advantages.
According to the UChicago News, the university saw a 20% rise of low-income and first-generation student enrollment after their admissions policy changed the standardized test score section to optional.
So now that a once-significant part of the college application is losing its values, what should students really focus on? The admissions process is no longer a numbers game without standardized test scores, and while the grade point average (GPA) will remain to be a strong factor in the application, the variance of grading standards and scales between different schools will make it difficult to be an accurate or decisive indicator.
That leaves the extracurriculars and personal essays. While these two factors may not show academic performance and success in the classroom as well as the GPA and standardized test scores, they will distinguish and characterize an applicant, something that the numbers can’t do. Moreover, the personal narratives are growing in importance, seeing that several schools that adopted the test-optional policy require additional essays to supplement these test scores.
Meanwhile, the University of California system is currently reviewing their standardized test score policy as well. According to the Los Angeles Times, Vice Chairwoman Cecilia Estolano noted that the tests run by a “clearly flawed methodology that has a discriminatory impact” in a recent Board of Regents meeting. While discussion is ongoing, it seems as the decision will not be imminent, as the size and influence of the UC system is bound to have significant impact nationwide if it were to drop the mandatory standardized testing policy.
As reported by FairTest, there are currently over 1050 colleges and universities with “test-optional” or “test-blind” policies, as of fall of 2019.
by Ashley Kim