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SAT, ACT dont dictate success

By Our Stance
On February 23, 2011

One of the most stressful and bothersome aspects of applying for college is having to take the SAT and ACT over and over again until you get a score you believe will earn admission into your school of choice.

It's costly, time consuming (these tests are almost always on Saturday mornings) and it adds more stress onto the already busy schedule of high school juniors and seniors.

Last week, DePaul University announced that they would be making standardized test scores optional for its applicants, a decision we think could be very beneficial.

Many other schools have decided to instate a test optional policy, most of those schools being smaller liberal arts colleges. The decision made by DePaul's officials makes it the largest private nonprofit university to not require standardized test scores.

To replace test scores, applicants will be required to answer essay questions that measure "noncognitive" traits including commitment to service, ability to meet long-term goals and leadership.

Officials at DePaul believe that choosing students based on noncognitive traits will help them find the students who will not only get good grades, but earn a degree, graduate and actually be successful while in college.

One major stipulation regarding SAT and ACT scores is that students who come from families with higher income tend to earn higher scores on these tests, a study conducted by College Board shows.

Some suggest it is because students from wealthier families can afford prep courses while others suggest it may be because students from low income families may live in areas with poor schools and aren't being taught the necessary skills.

Regardless of the reason, the fact remains the same that low-income students are at a disadvantage, but making test scores optional can change that and help more of these students gain admission into college.

Officials at DePaul didn't rush into this decision. They conducted research and found that by looking at high school GPA and transcripts they can predict college success just as well, if not better, than if they looked at SAT and ACT scores.

So really, standardized tests scores weren't providing them with anything new and were just giving admissions officials more stacks of papers to sift through.

Students can still submit their standardized test scores if they are confident with them or if they prefer not to answer the essay questions.

College administrators have been obsessed with scores for too long and we think it's time to abandon that practice if it's not telling them anything they can't already deduce from transcripts.

On top of that, looking at noncognitive traits can help predict whether a student actually graduates and earns a degree, in other words, if they're actually successful or not.

This is the key goal of receiving a college education, yet neither transcripts nor standardized test scores can predict that.

Let's not forget, too, that for some students, testing situations can be extremely stressful and produce a lot of anxiety.

Although these students may be bright, they may find it nearly impossible to earn a high score on a test like the ACT or SAT.

DePaul's freshman class of 2012 will be the first group to be admitted with the new test-optional policy and over the next four years the university plans to conduct research on how effective the policy is.

We think the program will be successful and we hope other universities will take note of DePaul's move toward equality among applicants and maybe someday soon UCF will do the same.

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