depaul-logoDePaul University in Chicago became the largest private non-profit university to go test-optional when it announced that applicants for the 2012 freshman class will no longer be required to submit ACT or SAT scores as part of their application. DePaul joins a growing number of colleges and universities, including Wake Forest, that have opted to make standardized test scores optional for applicants.

In a statement, DePaul officials said the new policy will further enhance the university’s student-centered approach to admission, supporting the conviction that four years of performance and learning in high school are far more important than performance on a four-hour test.

“Standardized test scores are strongly correlated with income, and scores vary dramatically across ethnic groups, raising questions about their fairness to all member of our society,” the university said in the statement. “The prevalence of the ‘test preparation industry’ and the ability of wealthier students to take the test repeated times contribute to the debate about equity.”

DePaul said it expects the vast majority of applicants will continue to submit test scores as part of the application process. However, Jon Boeckenstedt, associate vice president for enrollment management, added that he expects to see more applicants with high GPAs and low ACT and SAT scores.

Student who choose not to submit standardized test scores will be asked to write short responses to essay questions designed to measure non-cognitive traits, such as leadership, ability to meet long-term goals, and commitment to service.

“Admissions officers have often said that you can’t measure heart,” Boeckenstedt told the Chronicle of Higher Education. “This, in some sense, is an attempt to measure that heart.”

The groundwork for the new policy was put in place several years ago when DePaul introduced four short essay questions to its freshman application.

One question prompted applicants to describe a goal they had set for themselves and how they planned to accomplish it: “How would you compare your educational interests and goals with other students in your high school?” Another question said: “Describe a personal challenge you have faced, or a situation in which you or others were treated unfairly. How did you react to the situation and what conclusions did you draw from the experience? Were you able to turn to others for support?”

DePaul has not yet announced how many questions applicants will be asked to complete if they do not submit test scores.