More colleges are opting out of standardized college admissions tests, a traditional, if stressful, rite of passage for college-bound high school students.
Chatham College, a small women’s college in Pennsylvania, is the most recent school to adopt the policy on Nov. 17. Instead of SAT or ACT scores, an applicant may choose to submit a graded essay or a portfolio of their work.
Chatham joins a host of colleges that don’t require standardized admissions tests, including Hamilton College, Mt. Holyoke College and Bates College. The number of colleges that don’t require standardized test scores for admission has grown to 725, according to Fairtest.org, a watchdog organization that evaluates standardized tests like the SAT and ACT.
Michael Poll, vice president of admissions at Chatham, said that the college saw no correlation between standardized test scores and college performance.
“One of the areas we excel in is the arts. This gives us the ability to attract the more creative student. The student body quality will increase,” Poll said.
By opting out of the test, Poll said that Chatham’s admissions department will be able to focus on the individual, rather than on their score.
Of Chatham’s new policy, ACT spokesman Ed Colby said, “A few smaller colleges have made this decision recently. We certainly support their decision. Smaller colleges have the time to analyze student applications and look in more detail at qualities and skills.”
Director of Public Education at Fairtest.org Robert Schaeffer said that there are more liberal arts colleges are on the list because there are more liberal arts colleges in existence.
“Also, private colleges set their own admissions standards. Public admissions standards are often set by legislative bodies,” Schaeffer said.
Similar to Mills, Chatham is a small, selective women’s college, but Mills currently requires SAT or ACT scores for freshwoman admission.
“Since more and more schools are offering the SAT as optional, I don’t know if our policy is going to change in the future,” said Joan Jaffe, associate dean of admission at Mills. But Jaffe said that while SAT scores are mandatory for freshwoman admission, they are not weighed as heavily as other aspects of the application.
“We weigh the transcript much more heavily. The high school transcript represents three years of work. The transcript is the best single indicator of success in college,” Jaffe said.
Sophomore Claire Kempa agreed with Mills’ policy.
“The more ways a school has to critically evaluate its applicants, the more accurate and fair its decisions will be,” Kempa said.
Chatham College countered that although the standardized test is supposed to help an institution assess their applicants, many times the test accomplishes the opposite, making it difficult for them to recruit the kind of student that they feel will succeed in their environment.
“We feel that some of the very best students aren’t able to convey their talents and abilities on a test,” Poll said.