Every year, millions of high school juniors and seniors take standardized tests, prep for hours, spend hundreds of dollars on tutors and apprehensively wait for their score that could, in part, determine their future. However, in recent years there has been a movement for colleges to place less importance on standardized testing in college admissions.
As of today, there are over 300 schools that do not require standardized testing as part of the admissions process. These schools are referred to as “test optional.”
Test optional schools give students more opportunities to showcase their academic abilities, as they allow potential students to be seen as more than just a number. This can be particularly helpful for students who are poor test takers due to anxiety, time management issues, ADHD and other factors.
When most schools review student applications, the first things they look at are test scores and GPA. Is it fair to weigh a three hour test equally to four years of hard academic work? Some schools are realizing that the answer is no. Standardized testing is a poor way to measure student ability, and more schools should consider having test optional admissions.
Schools that function as test optional range from top ranked national liberal arts colleges to large universities. Some notable ones include Wesleyan University, Bowdoin College and George Washington University.
The former president of Mount Holyoke College, Joanne Creighton, said on FairTest.org that the SAT falls short of displaying the entire profile of the student.
“While this test has some ability to predict student performance in the first year of college, it falls far short of predicting overall academic or career success and a host of other aptitudes that educators and society value, such as intellectual curiosity, motivation, persistence, leadership, creativity, civic engagement and social conscience,” she said.
While the majority of schools today use holistic admissions, which means that they look at extracurricular activities, course rigor and tests, test optional schools keep students who do not test well from being disadvantaged in college admissions. In such a competitive admissions process, this can be beneficial to many students.
Standardized tests are still important in the college admissions process, as the majority of institutions have not become comfortable with the idea of excluding them from admissions. Regardless, it is clear that test optional schools are growing in popularity, and the college admissions process is changing before our eyes.
Students and their surrounding community can help to embrace this change in admissions. Students can support test optional schools by applying to them, which in return will encourage more schools to become test optional. Faculty and guidance counselors can continue to promote and encourage students to apply to test optional schools. The more popular test optional schools become, the more widely they will be accepted.
In the competitive college admissions process, optional standardized testing in the future could become just one less thing apprehensive high school students have to worry about.