July 14, 2020
Ursuline College has joined some 1,240 colleges and universities nationwide in making standardized tests optional for admission. According to the National Center for Fair & Open Testing (FairTest), fewer than half of all four-year colleges and universities are still requiring applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores for fall 2021 admission.
While long contemplated at Ursuline – an independent liberal arts college with a strong commitment to access for under-represented and first-generation students – the test-optional decision was spurred by Making Caring Common (MCC), a project of the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Hundreds of admission and enrollment leaders, including Ursuline’s Vice President for Enrollment Management Susan Dileno, have signed MCC’s document, Care Counts in Crisis: College Admissions Deans Respond to COVID-19, which encourages in students self-care, balance, meaningful learning, and care for others and which downplays the role of standardized tests.
“At Ursuline College, we do not need test scores in order to make good admission decisions for prospective students,” said Dileno. “We rely on high school transcripts, admission applications and essays, recommendations, and in-person and video-conferenced interviews to tell us what we need to know about a student’s potential to succeed at Ursuline. We are happy to move away from mandatory standardized tests, which can be barriers to success.”
According to FairTest, “Dropping tests leads to greater diversity because the focus on test scores deters otherwise qualified minority, low-income, first-generation, female and other students from applying.”
FairTest reports that 85% of the U.S. News “Top 100” national liberal arts colleges now have ACT/SAT-optional policies in place, as do 60 of the “Top 100” national universities.
The trend toward test-optional admission was well established when the CVOID-19 pandemic hit. Nearly 200 additional colleges and universities declared ACTs and SATs optional for admission between mid-March and mid-June, when gathering with large groups for test-taking was banned or discouraged.
“The bottom line is that multiple-choice or short-answer tests are not the best indicators of student learning,” said Dileno. “Test scores do not tell us about a student’s ability to comprehend complex material, write with proficiency, apply math to real-world situations, reason scientifically, or understand social science concepts.”