Now that the College Board announced that it would be eliminating the SAT with Essay and the entire suite of Subject Tests, many are asking what this means for the test optional trend. Will colleges extend their policies for the Class of 2022 and beyond making the traditional SAT and ACT optional?
While many colleges were initially hesitant to adopt a test optional policy this past year, they are experiencing tremendous benefits in the end which will be hard to give up. New York University, Duke University, University of Virginia, and a number of other colleges are reporting record breaking application totals for the incoming freshman class. Despite what colleges purport, they want as many applications as they can get. This can lower a college's acceptance rate and increase its bragging rights as well.
Colleges that adopted a test optional policy are also experiencing greater racial diversity within their applicant pools. No amount of recruitment efforts on the part of admissions officers to attract more students of color has ever come close to the results colleges are seeing by going test optional. If colleges continue to state that racial diversity is an institutional priority, it will be like taking one huge step forward and then two steps back if they require the SAT or ACT once again.
These two benefits in addition to the College Board's announcement today would suggest the test optional trend is here to stay.
I have always been a proponent of colleges adopting a test optional policy. I have seen it benefit students firsthand. The most enlightening thing I learned as a dean of admissions at a test optional college was that students who applied without test scores performed just as well (and sometimes better) in college than those who submitted scores with their applications. But I worry about the unintended results of a policy that is supposed to help students.
We are not only hearing about record breaking application totals this year; we are anticipating some of the lowest acceptance rates ever as a result. There aren't more students applying. There are students applying to more colleges, partly because of the ability to apply to colleges without any test scores.
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With the College Board no longer offering certain tests, the crumbling testing agency along with the equally struggling ACT, Inc. will be offering the SAT and ACT in droves as soon as they can. This is the only way they can survive. They are praying that colleges return to requiring the SAT and ACT for admission. If not, their days will be numbered.
I urge colleges to make decisions about whether they will be requiring the SAT and ACT for the Class of 2022 right now. No matter the decision, students need to know if they have to register for these tests, pay for them, and prepare for them. The longer a college waits to make this announcement, the less trust we will have in them. Look where that got the College Board.