Colleges consider dropping SAT/ ACT, University still sees need

By Alissa Groeninger

Colleges across the country are taking a second look at the ACT and SAT.

Many schools, including Wake Forest University, Hamilton College and the Worchester Polytechnic Institute, no longer require students to take either of these tests, while other schools, including the University, are still requiring the tests.

The National Association for College Admissions Counseling released a report in September saying the SAT and ACT are not the best options for all students or schools. According to the report, at some schools, standardized testing may be directly correlated to a student’s potential in college and at others, high school grades are a better indicator of the success one will have in college. The report made clear that what works for one school may not work for another and the decision needs to be made internally.

“That’s an institution decision based on the mission of that particular institution,” said Stacey Kostell, director of undergraduate admissions at the University.

Kostell said the tests serve as one factor in admission to the University.

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    “We want to look at everything a student can bring,” Kostell added.

    The association’s report indicated test preparation programs hinder the reliability to indicate a student’s potential. There are many variables influencing access to organizations and materials aimed at improving scores, including family income and school setting, according to the report.

    The commission that generated the report also worries that the test hinders the ability of minorities to go to college because Caucasian and Asian American students score higher on standardized tests than their peers in other racial groups.

    Kostell acknowledged a bias in the test that hurts minority and lower-income students. However, she said the University takes this into account when reviewing applications.

    “It’s just a factor. It shouldn’t be given sole weight,” she said.

    Students who applied for the Worchester Polytechnic Institute for the 2008-2009 school year were the first class not required to take a standardized test. Instead, they had an option of submitting a project.

    Adam Epstein, assistant director of admissions at Worchester, said students submitted Eagle Scout and science fair projects, among other representations of their capabilities. Worchester has a hands-on curriculum, which is why the admissions department is allowing potential students to demonstrate their active learning abilities.

    “Students are applying what they’re learning,” he added.

    The vast majority of students chose to submit standardized test scores despite the new option.

    “It’s essentially to allow the students…who are better able to apply their knowledge by doing something (hands-on),” Epstein said.

    He said Worchester created the option after studies indicated that some students can do well in college despite low test scores.

    Hamilton College in New York now gives students the option to take several tests rather than only allowing the SAT or ACT results to count in admissions decisions.

    “We’re not going to stand by one test or one testing vendor,” said Monica Inzer, dean of admissions and financial aid at Hamilton.

    The decision by Hamilton College to permanently allow other test scores was made two years ago. In addition to the ACT and SAT, students can submit three exam scores from a menu that includes Advanced Placement scores and IB test results. However, 60 percent of students still submit the SAT and some of the remaining 40 percent submit the ACT.

    Inzaer said the student body at Hamilton has become much more diverse in the seven years since they began considering other tests. Testing is still valued but other tests may be better predictors of success for Hamilton’s students, she said.

    “It’s a way for us to admit smarter students regardless of their SAT scores,” Inzer added.