SAT Optional Policies Impacting College Applicant Pools

May 14, 2012

Students taking a standardized testMore colleges are making standardized tests optional, which officials say helps to broaden and diversify applicant pools.

Ithaca College in New York last week became the latest institution to announce a "test-optional" policy: According to the college's website, applicants for Ithaca College's 2013 entering class will be given the option of submitting SAT or ACT scores as part of their admission files, or withholding them altogether.

"We have always reviewed applicants holistically to assess each student's potential for success at Ithaca College," explained Gerard Turbide, Ithaca College's director of admission. "From the coursework they choose, to the leadership positions they hold, and the many and varied talents that they bring, we want to develop a complete picture of every student. None of that is captured in a standardized test score."

Ultimately, Ithaca College officials hope that the policy will help broaden and diversify its applicant pool, which reached a record high of 13,810 in 2012.

"We believe this policy change will allow us to craft our class of enrolled students from a larger and more diverse applicant pool," noted Eric Maguire, the college's vice president for enrollment and communication, "while focusing less on standardized test scores that contribute only marginally to our prediction of student success."

According to a list maintained by FairTest, The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, nearly 850 four-year colleges currently do not use SAT or ACT scores for admitting substantial numbers of students into bachelor's degree programs. Many of those institutions have found that test-optional policies can indeed impact the applicant pool. As reported by the Watertown Daily Times, two colleges in upstate New York have noticed a change in both the number and type of applicants since making SAT and ACT scores optional.

According to Rick Miller, vice president for institutional effectiveness and enrollment management at SUNY Postdam, the policy was the reason for a surge in applications, from 4,525 in 2009 to 5,097 in 2011. Similarly, St. Lawrence University saw a marked increase in applications after removing the requirement for standardized tests in 2006.

Diversity has increased at both universities as well, but other factors may have played a part.

"I can tell you our diversity has increased over the past few years, but I can't say that going test-optional has had a causative effect," Miller explained to the Watertown Daily Times. "We are doing more to encourage students from diverse backgrounds."

Jeffrey B. Rickey, vice president and dean of admissions and financial aid at St. Lawrence University, acknowledged that a greater number of minority students have applied in the past few years. "We are also seeing an increase in applications from what I call 'creative types,' people who may get good grades in high school but may not be great test-takers," he told the Watertown Daily Times. "They bring a different type of diversity to our campus."

Compiled by Yaffa Klugerman


"Ithaca College Adds Early Action and Makes Standardized Tests Optional for Applicants," ithaca.edu, May 10, 2012, Eric Maguire

"SAT/ACT Optional 4-Year Universities Test Score Optional List," fairtest.org, Spring 2012

"Universities' Test-Optional Policy Increases Applicants," watertowndailytimes.com, May 9, 2012, Christopher Robbins

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