Test Prep

No SATs? No Problem.

I was browsing for college admissions news items and came across this article from the Baltimore Sun:

Loyola joins SAT-optional colleges

Proponents note diversity goals, doubts about standard tests' predictive accuracy

Loyola College's Jesuit tradition calls for it to serve students who did not start with every economic, social or geographic advantage.

Widespread research, meanwhile, shows that standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT favor those from privileged backgrounds and that such tests are less predictive of college success than excellent grades and a rigorous course load in high school.

So, in search of a more diverse and accomplished student body, Loyola has joined a growing list of colleges and universities that no longer require applicants to submit an SAT or ACT score. Among Maryland schools, Goucher College, Salisbury University, Washington College, St. John's College and McDaniel College also practice forms of "test-optional" admissions . . .

In general, what can "test optional" mean to you?

There is a long history of debate about the ability of standardized tests to accurately predict an applicant's ability to cope with college level work. Personally, I think that they are limited in their capacity to do that. The evidence tends to support my position. Many relatively low-scoring test takers go on to high-GPA college experiences. Of course, this raises the question about how fairly they were judged by colleges that may have denied them admission. It's an ongoing battle.

However, as the Sun article notes, there is an ever-growing group of forward thinking colleges that recognize the potential for misrepresentation. For the complete listing of college in the test-optional pool see the FairTest Web site. According to a Common Dreams article, there are over 775 test-optional schools:

Test Optional Colleges List Soars Past 775

As Leading Admissions Group Urges More Schools to Reconsider SAT/ACT Standardized Exam

Requirements and Stop Misuse of Scores of Scholarships

As the nation's leading organization of college admissions professionals calls for more schools to reevaluate their use of SAT and ACT test results, a new survey concludes that more than 775 bachelor-degree granting colleges and universities already do not require most applicants to submit scores from either exam.

The number of "test-optional" schools has soared since "new" versions of the SAT and ACT were introduced, according to the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), which applauded the report released today by the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC). The NACAC Commission on the Use of Standardized Tests in Undergraduate Admission echoed many recommendations long advocated by FairTest and other assessment reformers, including:

- encouraging additional institutions to consider ending their admissions exam mandates;

- stopping the use of "cut-scores," or minimum test requirements, for determining tuition aid eligibility; particularly in programs such as the National Merit Scholarship competition; and

- condemning reliance on ACT/SAT results for "ranking" institutional quality . . .

What does all this mean to you less-than-confident SAT/ACT test takers? Well, for starters, it means that you have an opportunity to be judged on your overall profile, without undo emphasis on a small group of test numbers. If you're feeling frustrated about finding a group of quality candidate colleges, check out the FairTest list and start building your admissions plan. There's a place for you in a great school. All you have to do is search for it.

Don't forget to check out all my admissions-related articles and book reviews at College Confidential.