More Colleges Join Test-Optional Movement to Increase Diversity of Incoming Students

A new policy enacted at George Washington University (GWU) seeks to broaden access to higher education for underrepresented and underprivileged students by doing away with its standardized test score requirement in the admission process.

Beginning this month, ACT and SAT scores will no longer be required for most undergraduate applicants at the university. The policy change is meant to broaden access for first-generation and low-income students, as well as students of color, and is part of a widespread trend in college and university admissions to go test-optional or test-flexible.

Hundreds of institutions across the U.S. have joined in this movement to de-emphasize ACT and SAT scores in admissions decisions. See a list of these schools here.

According to Bob Schaeffer of FairTest, a nonprofit that advocates for test-optional admissions, doing away with test score requirements leads to increased diversity without diminishing academic talent.

“There has been a lot of research done on what happens when you drop SAT and ACT requirements in the admissions process, and quite uniformly, schools find no dilution of their academic talent, but [see] a significant increase in diversity of all sorts — race, gender, income, academic interest,” Schaeffer said in a statement. “By getting rid of the requirements, they open the door to kids who are otherwise very talented and can succeed in college if given the chance.”

Critics of test-optional admissions say this method for reviewing and admitting applicants could replace reliance on test scores with reliance on Advanced Placement tests or extracurricular activities, which students at under-resourced high schools may have limited access to. Some also say that adopting such policies could provide other benefits to the school that have nothing to do with broadening diversity. For example, if low-scoring students aren’t required to submit scores, then an institution’s average SAT or ACT score could increase; this inflates the average without considering students who applied but didn’t submit scores.

Designer of the SAT the College Board is also taking steps to tackle the issue. President of the College Board David Coleman acknowledged the test’s flaws in anticipation of a 2016 re-design of the SAT.

“I am here today because the College Board stands at another pivotal moment. We must certainly ask ourselves if we are, individually or as a group, doing all we can to advance equity and excellence,” Coleman said in a statement.

 

*This article was reworked using information published in an August 1, 2015, article on AJC.com.