'Test-Blind' Admissions

Hampshire becomes only competitive college in the country that will not look at SAT or ACT scores.

June 19, 2014

More than 800 four-year colleges and universities do not require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores. But of these "test-optional" colleges, the competitive ones will look at scores that are submitted. And most selective, test-optional colleges report that a majority of applicants (typically a large majority) submit scores.

On Wednesday, Hampshire College announced that it would become the only such college that will be "test-blind," meaning that it will not look at SAT or ACT scores even if applicants submit them.

In a statement, Meredith Twombly, dean of admissions and financial aid, said that the college was concerned about the way wealthier students do better on standardized tests, and that it was inconsistent to say that the college doubted the value of standardized tests while continuing to look at them.

“Tests aren’t part of Hampshire’s pedagogy, so why would we use a test to determine which students would thrive here?" she said. "The SAT is essentially one test on one day in a given year. Students’ high school academic records, their history of civic engagement, their letters of recommendation from mentors, and their ability to represent themselves through their essays trump anything the SAT could tell us."

In an interview, Twombly said that even though Hampshire has been test-optional from its opening in 1970, most applicants have until now continued to submit. In recent years, she said that the share of applicants submitting scores was 60 to 80 percent. She said she continued to be surprised and bothered by how many people were submitting scores. (Some college admissions officials elsewhere have seen such situations as cause for celebration, since those with SAT or ACT scores below a college's average will typically not submit, meaning that the SAT or ACT average tends to edge up, potentially helping the institution with rankings.)

Twombly said that she hoped Hampshire's move would inspire other colleges to follow. She said it was time to take "the next steps beyond 'test-optional.' "

Sarah Lawrence College for a number of years previously was "test-blind," but in 2012 went back to being test-optional. At that time, the college said that students had complete freedom to decide whether or not to submit scores.

Colleges that do not consider SAT or ACT scores are automatically placed in the "unranked" category by U.S. News & World Report's college rankings.

Twombly said that the prospect of being unranked didn't bother her. "Our students don't get caught up in rankings," she said.

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