For many years, one of the mainstays of the college admissions process for universities and colleges across the country has been entrance exams. Schools generally look at standardized test scores, particularly the SAT, during their initial rounds of entrance screenings. Recently, many schools have decided to eschew this legacy admissions process, allowing applicants to effectively opt out of taking entrance exams or submitting exam scores as a requirement for consideration for acceptance.

Reasons Behind the Opting Out Trend

The testing scores of the graduating class of 2018 included some worrying trends for many analysts in the United States, particularly in the ACT:

  • Overall scores dropped for the second time in two years, following almost a decade of year over year increases.
  • Readiness levels in English and Mathematics dropped to a 20-year low.
  • Only four in ten students met the benchmark score for Mathematics, the lowest rate since 2004.

Education professionals in various sectors consider this a sign that what students are learning in high school does not align with what current standardized tests expect them to know.

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How Schools Are Changing Admission Policies

More than 1,000 American colleges and universities have moved toward test-optional policies for admissions. Since the inception of this trend, the majority of schools that have implemented such changes do not recruit students at the national level, nor do they have very competitive admissions overall. However, larger universities are starting to adopt the trend in 2019, including Bucknell University, which announced the school would be taking a test-optional approach to admissions in early 2019 for the coming 2020-2021 school year.

Following Bucknell’s announcement, many other larger schools have announced new test-optional admissions policies for their upcoming school years, including:

  • Creighton University
  • DePauw University
  • Fairleigh Dickinson College
  • Ferris State University
  • Evergreen State College
  • The University of Denver
  • The University of Minnesota at Crookston
  • The University of Chicago
  • The University of San Francisco
  • Springfield College

This is not an exhaustive list, and 2019 so far has seen a long series of other major universities and colleges announcing test-optional policies. While this trend began with mostly small liberal arts schools with primarily locally based student populations, more major universities are adopting test-optional admissions policies all over the country.

Potential Issues With This Trend

While many members of the higher education community believe that dropping standardized testing as a barrier to entry could offer more educational opportunities to students from disadvantaged school systems, critics of the trend indicate that standardized testing requirements create a safeguard against admissions fraud. In light of the recent high-profile college admissions scandal involving children of wealthy celebrities and major universities, the new trend of test-optional admissions policies has come under fire from many different sources.

Another interesting development over recent years is that, despite the trend of so many higher education institutions moving toward test-optional admissions policies, more high school students in the graduating class of 2019 took the SAT than ever before. This is likely a response to the College Board enacting policies that make the SAT more affordable and more accessible to students all over the country. Ultimately, students need to make the personal decision to apply to the schools that offer the programs that interest them the most and help them achieve their career goals.

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