Death of the SAT and ACT?

Not yet, but it may be closer than you think.

Standardized tests do not measure receptivity to learning, creativity, empathy, perseverance, common sense, curiosity, communication skills, imagination, integrity, innovative intelligence, or work ethic, all attributes necessary to college success

Anyone who knows me, knows that I am not a fan of standardized testing. Or let’s put it this way: I recognize the utility of the SAT/ACT in some situations, but see them as a limited measure of the qualities that we want to see in a capable college student. And so I hailed University of Chicago’s recent decision to jettison its SAT/ACT requirement.

During recent years, many American colleges dropped the SAT/ACT requirement. But University of Chicago’s decision drew special attention because of the college’s prestigious reputation and reputation for academic rigor.

University of Chicago’s announcement came just as many admissions leaders were rethinking their own (over)reliance on test scores when considering applicants. This reconsideration followed a growing recognition of a number of factors. For example, as is well known, the SAT/ACT are known to be culturally and socio-economically biased; historically, we see that black and Latino students generate lower scores than their white and Asian-American peers, as do students who come from less affluent families. Assuming diversity remains a cherished aspiration for American colleges, admissions officers are beginning to realize that they have to find more holistic ways of assessing applicants and that may include jettisoning the SAT and ACT requirement.

Also, admissions leaders are well aware that the hyper-valuation of SAT and ACT scores discourages many qualified students from applying, including many learning different/learning disabled students who, historically, struggle with standardized tests but who could potentially be admitted, contribute to the college community, and succeed in college and beyond.

Finally, colleges are well aware that the majority of American guidance counselors, those high school officers who often know students best, wish that all colleges were test optional. Guidance counselors are often the people who are most aware of how disadvantages beyond a student’s control impact that student’s performance in school and on the SAT/ACT. Consequently, they often witness in a very personal way how the tests unfairly penalize poorer students, disadvantaged students, and female students.

So while it’s too early to sound the death knell of the SAT/ACT, it is widely held that University of Chicago’s decision will have an ongoing ripple effect and will influence more colleges to dump the SAT/ACT requirement in the near future.

And that will be a happy day.

Have questions about this change? Call me!

A partial list of SAT/ACT-optional colleges:

Bates College

Bowdoin College

Bryn Mawr College

College of the Holy Cross

George Washington University

Hofstra University

Lawrence University

Mount Holyoke College

Pitzer College

Sarah Lawrence College

Smith College

University of Pittsburgh-Bradford

Wake Forest University

Wesleyan University

Worcester Polytechnic Institute

Dr. Osborn works with students from all over the world to help them reach their independent, college, and graduate school goals. Through a personal, one-on-one approach, Dr. Osborn creates an individualized plan for each student based on the student’s strengths, passions, and career aspirations. Her holistic approach helps families of middle school, high school, and college-aged students alleviate stress, avoid confusion, and succeed.  

About The Author

Susan Osborn, Ph.D., has spent 30 years in higher education, in admissions at Vassar College, in the English department and Writing Program at Rutgers University, in the lab at The New Jersey Center for Research on Writing, and as a private tutor. Dr. Osborn is also an award-winning writer and scholar and she brings both her education smarts and her writing smarts to every student relationship.