Over the past decade, we have heard strange rumblings from the college haunted house on the hill. That’s the building that contains all the schools who have opted out of requiring the sacred admissions test scores (ACT and SAT) as part the application process. Who’s up there? There are over 800 of them ― predominantly smaller schools, institutions outside the mainstream of “brand name” colleges and universities that most people know about. But there are a few on the hill whose names are on people’s lips, and to that group we can now add George Washington University in our nation’s capital. Surely one of the best known universities to join the movement against admissions tests, GW announced that it will no longer require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores.
And when we write “no longer,” we mean no longer, now, for students applying in a month or two for freshman admission! Why?
The school says that the best predictor of academic success as an undergraduate is consistently revealed in a student’s high school transcript, especially by the GPA. However, we can’t help but wonder if this change is a drive for GW to improve its rank in US News & World Report. When a college goes test-optional, the only students who submit scores tend to be those with high enough scores to stand out above the rest of the applicants, which means a higher average test score reported to US News. It also means more students will apply, which leads to a lower acceptance rate. These two factors will improve a college’s rank in US News, and, thus drive even more applications, which, in turn, improves its rank further. The college looks even more selective.
GW won’t throw away scores that a student submits when the student feels that test results reflect their academic abilities. However, anyone who does not submit will face no penalty in the admissions process.
GW Exceptions? A few: home-schooled students, recruited Division I athletes, applicants to their highly selective 7-year BA/MD program, and students whose high schools do not provide traditional grades must all submit test scores. Of the tens of thousands who apply to this school, this is a very small percentage.
Several other “name brand” colleges have adopted test-optional (or “test-flexible”) policies, among them American, Arizona State, Bard, Bowdoin, Brandeis, Bryn Mawr, Connecticut College, Denison, Franklin & Marshall, Hamilton, Ithaca, Middlebury, NYU, Pitzer, Rollins, Smith, University of Arizona, and Temple, Wake Forest, Wesleyan.
What school is on your wish list? Click here for the full list of test-optional/test-flexible colleges.