George Washington University (GWU) is the latest high profile school to change to test-optional in their admissions process. The University of Connecticut should take heed the positive effects of this policy and consider instituting it in the coming years.
The most significant improvement owed to GWU’s decision to go test-optional is the increased diversity of the student population. Only one year after the move, the predominantly white school, which has a reputation for privilege, has seen noticeable shifts in their demographics. GWU believes becoming test-optional is the reason for “its latest freshman class” being “the most racially diverse in the school’s history,” according to The Washington Post .
In addition, GWU instituted test-optionality with the express purpose of increasing diversity, saying they “feared the testing requirement was hindering their ability to recruit a diverse class.” UConn is a similarly sized school with its own record of diversity issues. For example, the undergraduate student population at UConn is only 5 percent African-American. This is one reason why UConn should look into becoming a test-optional university.
Furthermore, some students are brilliant at working in the field of their study or performing well in class, but do not excel at standardized tests like the SATs or ACTs. It is difficult to prove that a test can be successfully standardized, as different students respond in dissimilar ways to how a test is structured and administered.
Thomas Rochon, the president of Ithaca College, wrote in 2013 why he wanted the school to go in a test-optional direction: “…test scores add relatively little to our ability to predict the success of our students,” Rochon wrote in U.S. News & World Report . “Studies undertaken by the SAT's sponsor, the College Board, generally indicate that the SAT adds only modestly to the prediction of student success after high school GPA is taken into account. Our internal study showed similar results. In addition, we know that some potential students are deterred from applying to colleges that require a test score because they are not comfortable taking standardized tests.”
Still, students who earn high test scores may be hurt by a test-optional university/college, since they would not compare as favorably to other students as they would at a test-mandatory institution. Additionally, without scores from tests like the ACT or the SAT, schools may have an even more challenging time sifting through thousands of applications, especially because grade point average (GPA) varies wildly and could mean more or less depending on the high school an applicant attended.
With all this in mind, UConn would do well to contemplate joining the over 900 institutions of higher education who don’t require test scores by altering their admissions process from test-mandatory to test-optional.