Wake Forest University

June 2011

Rethinking Admissions

Continuing the Conversation

Archive for June, 2011

SU Makes Test-Optional Policy Permanent

Thursday, June 30th, 2011

It’s been five years since Salisbury University in Maryland first announced it was making the SAT and ACT optional for applicants who had a 3.5 GPA in high school. Back when the policy was introduced, it was considered an experiment of sorts. This month, the university decided to make the policy permanent.

Student performance was one of the reasons for the decision to keep the test-optional policy. Students from the Fall 2007 freshman class who were admitted to the school under the new policy graduated at a slightly higher rate than students who submitted test scores. Course completion was also higher.

These facts support contentions that one of the best indicators of student success in college is not so much a high score on standardized tests, but good grades in a rigorous high school curriculum.

 “The pilot study has shown that test-optional students perform as well as their classmates and that the graduation rates of test-optional students are actually slightly higher, SU President Janet Dudly-Eshbach said in a statement.  “The program also has contributed to greater economic diversity among our incoming students, which we believe allows SU to better serve all the citizens of Maryland.”

Test optional, but now what?

Wednesday, June 15th, 2011

test optionalMore than 850 four-year colleges and universities are now “test-optional,” which means they no longer require ACT or SAT scores as a condition for admission. But just what do these higher ed institutions consider in their admissions process?

Greg Grauman, director of admissions at American University in Washington, D.C., provided some insight during a recent panel at the National Association for College Admission Counseling conference.

Grauman explained that AU is primarily looking for “wonks — opinionated, smart students who want to create meaningful change in the world.” In order to identify these students, Grauman’s team starts out by looking at curriculum and grades.

Essays and extracurricular activities are considered next. AU also takes into account whether students have shown genuine interest in the university by visiting, emailing or attending informational sessions. If an applicant provides standardized test scores, they are part of the mix but not the determining factor.

“There is no one element that will determine if a student is admitted or not,” Grauman said.

David Krause, director of admissions at Davidson College near Charlotte, N.C., said while his school is not test-optional, standardized test scores are literally the last element his team considers as part of the review process.

“The best predictor of success is the rigor of curriculum in high school,” said Krause said. Grades are considered in the context of the curriculum’s rigor.

 Davidson also requires a peer recommendation, which often presents a challenge for applicants. Says Kraus, “They think, ‘who knows me well enough, but not too well.’”