3 More Colleges Go Test Optional; Doctoral Program Drops GRE

Southwestern University, Alma and Simpson Colleges join the test-optional movement.

April 22, 2019

Last month, Inside Higher Ed reported on a surge in colleges going test optional in admissions. Winter is typically not a time for many colleges to change admissions policies. In the winter of 2017-18, only one college announced it was going test optional. But in the winter of 2018-19, eight colleges made such a shift. And the article noted that spring started with test-optional announcements from the University of San Francisco and Springfield College.

In the weeks since, three more colleges have said that they will stop requiring applicants to submit either SAT or ACT scores. In addition, the University of Michigan's history department announced that it would no longer require the Graduate Record Examination for admission to its doctoral program.

The colleges going test optional on admissions include Southwestern University, a prominent liberal arts college in Texas with competitive admissions.

Tom Delahunt, vice president for strategic recruitment and enrollment, said in a statement that "the test-optional opportunity ensures that applicants are able to showcase strengths and attributes that test scores cannot reflect."

The other two colleges to recently announce a shift to test optional are Alma College and Simpson College.

Dropping the GRE

For years, top doctoral programs have required the GRE for admission. Supporters say that the GRE assures fair evaluation of students from undergraduate institutions of different standards with regard to grading and may open doors for those from nonelite colleges and universities.

But recently a few top programs -- philosophy at the University of Pennsylvania and English at Cornell and Harvard Universities -- have dropped GRE requirements.

Last week the University of Michigan's history department joined them.

"We were persuaded by several compelling arguments. First, the cost of the exam imposes a significant burden on many potential students, thus distorting the demographic balance of our applicant pool. Not only does the test itself cost over $200, but to ensure a high score many people feel the need to purchase expensive training material or take special preparation courses," said an announcement on the department's website from Brian Porter-Szűcs, director of graduate studies and Arthur F. Thurnau Professor of History.

"Our second major concern pertains to the well-established inequities inherent in all standardized tests. Not only international students, but also underrepresented minorities within the United States frequently find that their abilities are poorly reflected in their GRE scores," the statement added. "This relates to our final motivation: our conviction that the test scores add little to the other materials available to assess our graduate student applicants. By removing the GRE from our admissions form, we will be able to focus more on the qualitative assessments that better identify the most promising applicants: writing samples, personal statements, recommendations and the student’s complete record of course work and grades."

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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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