Schools are still getting qualified applicants without either test.
If you've been through the process of applying to a four year college or university in the United States, it's pretty likely that you sweated your way through a seating of the SAT or ACT. Colleges eagerly share the average scores of their acceptees—the higher the better—and businesses and tutors make a pretty penny charging anxious parents for test-prep. But could the tradition of SAT and ACT testing end? According to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, this year nearly 850 schools are opting to accept freshman who haven't taken either one.
Schools like DePaul University and Smith College don't require the tests at all while institutions like Bryn Mawr and NYU waive them in favor of SAT subject tests or AP or IB exam results. According to FairTest, over "40 liberal arts colleges ranked among the top 100 do not require all or many applicants to submit ACT/SAT scores before admissions decisions are made." Other schools waive the tests if students are applying to specific programs, or have grades that put them over a particular GPA threshold.
Why drop the exams or make them optional? Bob Schaeffer, FairTest's public education director, says that schools "recognize that neither the SAT nor ACT measures what students most need to succeed in higher education." There are also the usual concerns about overreliance on a high stakes test score and the validity of moment-in-time scores. But, what's really become an issue is ensuring that all students have an equal chance at admission. Excellent students from low income backgrounds may not have the extra cash to take the tests. Schools have found that they have a more diverse but still academically qualified applicant pool when they get rid of the tests and rely on other measures of student success—like GPA. "Even the tests' sponsors admit that an applicant's high school record remains a better predictor of college performance than either exam is," says Schaeffer.
The number of schools waiving the SAT and ACT is still a fraction of the total number of colleges and universities in the United States, but if they're still getting great applicants without these tests, why do we still need them?
Hard at work photo via Shutterstock