‘U.S. News’ Keeps ACT and SAT Scores in the Mix…for Now

‘U.S. News’ Keeps ACT and SAT Scores in the Mix…for Now

Though more and more colleges are dropping their ACT and SAT requirements, test scores still count in the closely watched college rankings many folks love to hate. But that might not hold true for much longer.

U.S. News & World Report, which published its latest Best Colleges guide on Monday, once again factored incoming students’ average test scores into its measure of “student excellence” at each ranked college despite recent calls for the publication to remove the ACT and SAT from its methodology. This year, standardized test scores were weighted at 5 percent of an institution’s overall ranking, the same as last year (down from 7.75 percent previously).

But U.S. News did change one part of its methodology in an acknowledgment of the growing number of test-optional colleges. It’s known as the 75-percent rule. Previously, the publication reduced the weight of the ACT and SAT by 15 percent for test-optional colleges with fewer than three-quarters of incoming students submitting scores. “The lack of data, for 25 percent of students or more, likely means the ACT or SAT score is not representative of the entire class,” Robert Morse, chief data strategist at U.S. News, explained in a 2016 blog post. Some enrollment officials have said the policy — which can lower a college’s ranking — penalizes institutions that don’t require standardized tests.

This year, U.S. News lowered the threshold to 50 percent: Colleges received “full credit for their SAT/ACT performance” if at least half of their incoming students submitted a score. Just 4 percent of nearly 1,500 ranked colleges did not meet that 50-percent threshold. But “many” colleges, Morse wrote in an email, fell somewhere between 50 percent and 75 percent, though he and a U.S. News spokeswoman declined to say how many “many” was.

Read the full article here. [Source Th Chronicle of Higher Education]

*Stay in the know! Subscribe*

Pandemic-To-Permanent: Lasting Changes To Higher Education

Pandemic-To-Permanent: Lasting Changes To Higher Education

While we are unsure all 11 of Brandon Busteed’s changes in Pandemic-To-Permanent: 11 Lasting Changes To Higher Education will be permanent, the article is worth a read if you want to understand some of what is going on in higher education that directly impacts admissions. Four points that stand out: 

1.     The test optional movement will become permanent. Although many colleges and universities announced such policies as temporary during the pandemic, these will become lasting changes to the world of college admissions. One of the big reasons relates to #2 below.

2.     Higher education institutions will be increasingly and lastingly held accountable to diversity, equity and inclusion (DEI) metrics. This will be most prominent in ensuring the student population is more diverse, but it will show up in faculty and staff hiring priorities for diversity as well. Pre-pandemic, higher education institutions paid more lip service to these priorities. Going forward, they will need to make real commitments to DEI because many constituents will begin holding them accountable to their progress.

10.  There will be a new kind of price war in higher education. Instead of ever-increasing tuition prices and expenses, universities will now compete to launch lower-cost online degrees to serve a growing market of value-oriented prospective students.

11.  Elite colleges and universities are no longer role models. Despite a history characterized by Harvard-envy – and a lingering obsession among parents, students and the media with top-ranked institutions – their relevance to the rest of higher education is headed toward zero. A lack of willingness to grow enrollments and serve more students in innovative and non-traditional ways – along with a dismal record admitting poor students and minorities – will make elites oddities in and of themselves. Make way for the new role models in higher education: the public flagships and up-and-comer privates that innovate on many dimensions, find ways to freeze or lower costs, and dedicate themselves to being student- and employer-centric.

*Stay in the know! Subscribe*

Test Optional, Kinda…

Test Optional, Kinda…

Don’t subscribe to Jeff Selingo’s NEXT newsletter? You should! 

Here’s his recent download on test-optional. As predicted, many colleges are NOT releasing an admit rate breakdown regarding submitters versus non-submitters, but he’s managed to gather a few data points. He notes in NEXT:

With less focus on standardized tests scores in admissions for at least another year, high school counselors and next year’s seniors are already asking what the lack of required test scores had on admissions decisions this year. Good luck finding out—at least from the selective schools that ditched required test scores because of the pandemic. Many of them aren’t releasing detailed numbers.

Context: Before COVID-19, 77% of students self-reported a test score, according to Common App. This past year it was 46%.

What’s happening: One vice-president for enrollment at a top-ranked school said that in the rush to go test-optional last year, the admissions staff never had the chance to discuss how they would talk about the results of test-optional admissions. “Just releasing numbers of how many applied and were accepted test-optional misses the nuances of the overall pool,” the official told me.

  • Without test scores, students who in previous years would have been discouraged from applying after seeing the school’s median test score, applied this time around. Many admissions deans reported big differences in their applicant pools as a result—from demographics to the courses applicants took in high school.
  • Who got admitted with tests and without also differed by major. One public university dean I talked with showed me admissions rates that were remarkably similar between those with and without test scores, except in STEM and business, where students with test scores got in at much higher rates.

By the numbers: In general, my discussions with deans at about a dozen selective colleges over the last few weeks found that about half of their applicant pools applied without test scores.

  • In every case I heard so far, students with test scores got accepted more often. In some cases, the admit rate was twice as high for students with test scores vs. those without.
  • Emory: Admit rate 17% (with tests) vs. 8.6% (without tests)
  • Colgate: 25% (w/tests) vs. 12% (w/o tests)
  • Georgia Tech: 22% (w/tests) vs. 10% (w/o tests)
  • Vanderbilt: 7.2% (w/tests) vs. 6% (w/o tests)

Bottom line: For students from the Class of 2022 who are applying to schools without a long history of test-optional admissions, it’s best to have a test score if it will help your overall case.

*Stay in the know! Subscribe*

Colleges Do Not Want Well-Rounded Applicants

Colleges Do Not Want Well-Rounded Applicants

We talk about the myth of well-roundedness a lot around here, so glad to see it talked about in this recent Forbes article!

Being a well-rounded individual is certainly admirable. What’s not to like about someone who is widely curious and has balance in their interests? When it comes to selective college admission, however, increasingly “being” well-rounded has been replaced by “doing” well-rounded. Applicants approach the experience feeling like they have to do it all. Gil Villanueva, associate vice president and dean of admission at the University of Richmond says, “the incessant belief that colleges want well-rounded students needs to just end. We want to build orchestras and we can’t have them if everyone plays the cello.” He tells students, “the reality is we want well-rounded classes. So it’s perfectly fine, if not great, that you don’t do everything at your schools. Ultimately, we simply want to see a positive impact in whatever co-curricular activity(s) you do because we can predict that you will contribute to our campuses outside of academics.”

The whole article is worth a read!

*Stay in the know! Subscribe*

Test Optional Policy Extensions (3/11/21)

Test Optional Policy Extensions (3/11/21)

Although most colleges implemented one-year test-optional policies in 2020 (for the high school class of 2021), quite a few schools went TO on multi-year pilots. Below we’ve included some of the more popular multi-year pilot schools as well as those that have extended a TO policy for one additional year. Stay tuned for more extensions and moves to being test-optional for good.

We plan to post separately outlining test blind schools.

Amherst (2022, 2023 extension)
Baylor (2022, 2023 extension)
Boston University (2022 extension)
Claremont McKenna (2022 extension)
Colgate (3-year pilot)
College of Charleston (2022, 2023 extension)
Columbia (2022 extension)
Cornell (2022 extension)* some schools remain test free aka test blind
Dartmouth (2022 extension)
Davidson (3-year pilot)
Eckerd (2-year pilot)
Elon (3-year pilot)
Emory (2022 extension)
Fordham (2-year pilot)
Haverford (3-year pilot)
JHU (2022 extension)
Middlebury (3-year pilot)
New York University (2022 extension)
Notre Dame (2022, 2023 extension)
Princeton (2022 extension)
Oberlin (3-year pilot)
Penn (2022 extension)
PSU (3-year pilot)
Rhodes (3-year pilot)
Rice (2022 extension)
Santa Clara University (2-year pilot)
Swarthmore (2-year pilot)
Texas Tech (2022 extension)
Trinity (3-year pilot)
Tufts (3-year pilot)
Tulane (2022 extension)
Union (fully TO)
U. Connecticut (3-year pilot)
U. Illinois (2022 extension)
U. Maryland (2022 extension)
U. Richmond (2022 extension)
U. Southern California (2022, 2023 extension)
UT Austin (2022 extension)
U. Virginia (2022, 2023 extension)
U. Wisconsin (2-year pilot)
Vassar (2022 extension)
William and Mary (3-year pilot)
Williams (2022 extension)
Yale (2022 extension)

*Stay in the know! Subscribe*

Test Blind Colleges

Test Blind Colleges

Test optional and test blind are two very different things!

Test optional means if students send scores with their application, those scores will be used in the evaluation of their application.

Test blind (or what Cornell calls score free) means students may not submit scores nor will scores be used in the evaluation of files.

Colleges and universities that are currently test blind:

University of California System
California State System
Cal Poly (Pomona and Slo)
California Institute of Technology (Caltech)
Catholic University
Cornell University (CALS, AAP, Dyson, Hotel)
Dickinson College
Hampshire College
Reed College
San Diego State (SDSU)
Washington State University

*Stay in the know! Subscribe*

 

 

Cornell University Remains Test Flexible (Optional/Blind) for 2022 First-Year Applicants

Cornell University Remains Test Flexible (Optional/Blind) for 2022 First-Year Applicants

Cornell colleges that will be score-free (aka TEST BLIND) and will not use test scores in the admission process:

  • College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
  • College of Architecture, Art, and Planning
  • Cornell SC Johnson College of Business – Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management
  • Cornell SC Johnson College of Business – School of Hotel Administration

Cornell colleges and schools that will also include a review of test results they receive (SAT/ACT testing optional) :

  • College of Arts & Sciences
  • College of Engineering
  • College of Human Ecology
  • School of Industrial and Labor Relations

We’d still plan to take the ACT or SAT if applying to Arts & Sciences, Engineering, Human Ecology, or Industrial and Labor Relations, and submit scores that are within the upper end of the score band only. Test optional is not always the best option! 

*Stay in the know! Subscribe*

 

 

Move Over Testing

Move Over Testing

Testing has been on the way out for some time now, and 2021 just might be the year that we see test blind—even beyond SAT subject tests—become more prevalent. 

So with testing on its way out, what’s in?

  • Being interesting, bold, different, eclectic in your interests and pursuits outside of “school”
  • Excellence in something (or a few things), but real excellence, like wow excellence
  • A deep interest in something (or a few things), but real depth, like wow depth
  • Forging your own path…

But this isn’t anything new.

In the past, the most successful applicants we have gotten to know were those who had competitive grades, competitive scores (maybe even a laundry list of them), and on top of that—for the most selective schools—had an interesting resume that told a clear and compelling story. Some activities were even a bit out-of-the-box, rare/unique, or at best a bit surprising; surprising is wonderful in college admissions because so many applications are just the same. If an applicant took an interest to a depth uncommon for someone in high school, even better. 

At the most selective schools, everyone has awesome grades and test scores. One of the main reasons so many applications don’t stand out has nothing to do with testing or grades, but a student’s resume and activities—their life outside of coursework. Many students feel like they are doing something wrong if they are not doing what everyone around them is, like play multiple sports, joining Science Olympiad or Debate, NHS, Interact/Key Club, and minimally taking part in a bunch of other clubs or “service” opportunities they don’t really care about. They do this instead of pursuing a few activities deeply, especially if those activities are not what their peers are doing. 

If we keep moving toward a test-less or less test-heavy college admissions model, students will hopefully have more time to focus on their interests outside of school. What these interests are, and the depth in which they are genuinely pursued, might become more important than ever before as we see the bar on that front rise. 

*Stay in the know! Subscribe*

 

 

 

College Board Ends SAT Subject Tests Program & SAT Essay

College Board Ends SAT Subject Tests Program & SAT Essay

Heard this “rumor” a few days ago. We will post on it more as we learn more. Read Compass’ post here for their full run-down, including some helpful (and evolving) Q/A:

Does this mean that my Subject Test registration is canceled?
There will not be any future U.S. administrations of the Subject Tests. International students will have the opportunity to take Subject Tests in May and June 2021 before the program is sunset altogether. Students can work with College Board to change a Subject Test registration to an SAT registration or receive a refund.

When will colleges update their policies to reflect the cancelation of the Subject Tests and Essay?
It may take time for colleges to react to January 19th’s news. Many colleges do not reevaluate testing requirements until after they complete the admission cycle in the spring. Students in the class of 2022 or later should be aware that language about Subject Tests and the Essay on college websites may be outdated for some time. Colleges that currently utilize the Subject Tests and/or the Essay will need to articulate whether those students who have already taken them are encouraged to submit them. 

Why is College Board making this decision now?
The Subject Test and Essay eliminations are sure to be roundly celebrated by students and counselors who see the move for what it is on its face: a few less items to worry about. And those supportive cheers will play conveniently well into the College Board’s couching of this decision as a purely selfless, student-friendly act. 

But it’s not that simple. While the end of Subject Tests removes one discretionary concern from the minds of a narrow band of college applicants (about 10% of college-bound students took Subject Tests each year), it also frees up resources for the College Board to allocate elsewhere. After celebrating the public relations win of today’s news, College Board will continue doubling down on its efforts and investments to push AP further into the center of the industrial enterprise it so heavily influences: create more AP programs, sell more AP exams, and perhaps even encourage colleges to think of AP scores as de facto college admissions measurements.

So was this a compassionate act aimed at simplifying the lives of students? Or was this a pragmatic decision to cut one’s worst losses? It was both. Today’s news represents at once a move away from an unpopular underperformer and a step toward better nourishing a more tolerated product line with greater potential to thrive. Everybody wins, perhaps? It just feels like the College Board wins a little more.

Will the elimination of Subject Tests mean more interest in AP exams?
Yes, likely so, especially within certain niches. Even with zero U.S. colleges requiring Subject Tests, more than 400,000 were still taken by the class of 2020. This energy has to go somewhere. Some of it will flow to heightened interest in APs and more pressure on schools to make AP testing opportunities available to students. While more than 80% of US high schools offer AP classes, there are thousands of high schools that do not. Some of these schools lack the resources to do so, while others have such an abundance of resources that they do not feel the need to bother. The latter group — predominantly highly competitive independent schools — finds the AP framework constricting. Subject Tests served as an option for non-AP students to demonstrate knowledge to colleges. Without that outlet, schools may face renewed questions from parents about APs.

Can I take an AP instead of a Subject Test?
Some colleges recommend that students provide standardized test scores such as Subject Tests or APs. However, the content and expectations on the AP test are different.  Students should consider whether an AP test — especially when unconnected from an AP course — makes sense.

Currently, students can search the AP ledger at https://apcourseaudit.inflexion.org/ledger/ to find local schools offering the exams that might be able to accommodate test-takers from other schools. The deadline to register for a May exam was pushed back to March 12th this year due to the pandemic. 

Is the SAT Essay eliminated entirely?
The SAT Essay will still be available for students to add on to their SAT through the June 2021 administration. The Essay may survive beyond June for state-funded School Day testing. College Board is contracted to deliver the Essay as part of its SAT program in some states. As an admission tool, students should consider the Essay as canceled.

Will my March SAT w/ Essay registration be canceled?
No, the Essay is still alive through the June 2021 test date. Students should contact College Board if they wish to have their reservations switched to the SAT w/o Essay and the difference in fees refunded.

Will colleges look at SAT Essay and ACT Writing scores that students have already taken?
Admission offices have not yet said if they will ignore prior essay scores or scores that are part of state-mandated testing. Compass does not expect that essay scores will have a role to play for the class of 2022 and beyond.

Will ACT eliminate the Writing test?
ACT may not want to be seen as immediately following College Board’s lead, but it faces the same reality — an essay test that was already struggling prior to the pandemic. ACT’s business is even more dependent on state-funded testing, so we expect that it will need time to consult with its partners before announcing a decision. Compass’s recommendation is for U.S. students to skip any optional Writing test.

 

Regular Decision Planning

Regular Decision Planning

Regular decision is tough, especially at schools with ED I and ED II, and that report RD admit rates under 10-15%. Even for students with a strong resume and competitive numbers, the odds are unfortunately against you at many schools.

You’ll need something special (or a special combination of skills, experiences, and attributes) to get a fair look at a top-top/uber selective school in RD. It’s a tall order for even the most college-prepared high school student: be at the top of your class with perfect or near-perfect grades, have little/no competition from classmates, a killer resume and academic narrative, and often very important, attend a high school that has an already established pipeline to these schools. You’ll need some awesome essays, too. And high test scores? They still count for a lot at many top schools.

We hate being glass-half-empty folks, but it might help to see that a 10% admit rate = 90% rejection rate :/ 

If your RD list is full of schools with admit rates under ~10% in RD consider balancing with a solid ED 2 option. If you are banking on some EA admits and feel like “going for it” in RD…that makes sense, but don’t be overconfident: COVID may have presented some opportunities in RD last year that they never would have in a normal year, but that might not be the case this year as schools have had time to plan ahead.

*Stay in the know! Subscribe*