Dear Commons Community,
The University of Chicago announced yesterday that it would no longer require applicants for the undergraduate college to submit standardized test scores. While it will still allow applicants to submit their SAT or ACT scores, university officials said they would let prospective undergraduates send transcripts on their own and submit video introductions and nontraditional materials to supplement their applications. As reported by the Chicago Tribune:
“We were sending a message to students, with our own requirements, that one test basically identifies you,” said Jim Nondorf, vice president and dean of admissions at U. of C. “Despite the fact that we would say testing is only one piece of the application, that’s the first thing a college asks you. We wanted to really take a look at all our requirements and make sure they were fair to every group, that everybody, anybody could aspire to a place like UChicago.”
The decision marks a dramatic shift for the South Side university and establishes it as the first top-ranked, highly selective school to do away with requiring test scores. It continues a yearslong effort by the university to make it easier for first-generation, low-income and minority students to apply and get into the school. The university also announced it would boost financial aid opportunities, including free tuition for families making less than $125,000 and four-year scholarships for first-generation students.
At issue is the value of standardized test scores and what role they should play in admissions. Proponents say the tests provide consistent metrics that help control for variances among states, schools and curricula. Critics say those tests, which some families spend thousands of dollars to prepare for, do not accurately measure a student’s qualifications. They have doubted how effective a no-test policy actually helps diversify campus populations.
U. of C. leaders have long wanted to increase diversity on campus and said they hoped a test-optional policy, at minimum, will prevent students from assuming that anything less than an outstanding test score automatically takes them out of the running.
Of the first-time freshmen students enrolling last fall, 25 percent recorded perfect or nearly perfect ACT and SAT scores in reading, writing and math, according to the National Center for Education Statistics.
Those scores, while impressive, gave pause to Undergraduate Dean John Boyer, who said he feared that such an intense focus on test scores skews admissions in favor of higher-income students from upper-echelon high schools.
“There’s a big industry of test prep, and the system as it’s existed serves them very well,” Boyer said. “We’re allowing ZIP codes to basically define the future of American life.”
Dozens of four-year institutions have embraced making SAT and ACT scores optional, according to a database maintained by the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, a Massachusetts-based proponent of test-optional admissions that has criticized standardized testing.
Among the recent adopters is DePaul University, which stopped requiring test scores in 2012.
“Once we looked at a student’s grades and transcripts, the SAT and ACT added very little to explain how well they were going to do in college,” said Jon Boeckenstedt, associate vice president of enrollment management and marketing. “Four years of high school is a better predictor than three hours in a testing room.”
Still, the vast majority, and most Illinois schools — including the state’s public universities — require SAT or ACT scores from applicants. Zach Goldberg, spokesman for the College Board, said more than 85 percent of college applications are sent to schools requiring either SAT or ACT scores, and that even test-optional schools still require the test of some students.”
Glad to see another major university stopping the standardized testing insanity that has overtaken education.