This academic year, a bold new phenomenon is sweeping college campuses. Many colleges, including the prestigious George Washington University (GWU), are now going “Test Optional.” This means that when students submit their application it’s not necessary for them to include their SAT scores.
This new radical idea comes out of the desire for more diverse applicants and the belief that these test scores aren’t the best indicators of whether or not students will succeed once they get to college.
Although it seems like colleges are getting rid of institutions, not requiring SAT scores is the way of the future. Eliminating the SAT score requirement puts greater emphasis on other areas of students applications, allowing their achievements in high school to have a greater sway in admission decisions.
College Board, the owner of the SAT test, claims that the test assesses information learned in high school and predicts success in college. However, according to case studies done by Whitman College, performance in high school predicted college success far better than SAT scores could. Not only is the test only so effective, performance on the SAT also shows clear differences along racial and class lines. Relying on the SAT to tell how students will do in college clearly shuts some students out of the running.
Not only does the SAT show biases, the money that it can take to perform well on the test can also keep students from measuring up to their peers with more financial resources.
According to College Board, each test is $43 without the essay portion and $54.50 with it. Prep materials can also cost students large amounts of money, with new prep materials coming out each year.
Not to mention the test itself is changing, making old SAT practice books obsolete, forcing students to buy the new ones. To top it all off, the majority of students who take the test will probably take it more than once to maximize their opportunities of doing well, hiking up the price of a good score even farther.
According to GWU, the change in the application process has succeeded in encouraging more students to apply. They received more than 25,000 applications this year up from around 19,000 applications the previous year. Also among those 25,000 or so applicants, more of them were Black, Latino and first generation college students. One in five applications did not include SAT scores.
Other colleges that have followed suit in becoming test optional include the University of Nevada, American University, Arizona State University and Wesleyan University. And if the trend of application numbers rising continues, more colleges should soon follow.
Throwing out the SAT in admissions decisions encourages more students to apply to great colleges. It also gives colleges better opportunities for more diversity on campus. ◼︎