‘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]

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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.

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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.

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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)

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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! 

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October Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

October Monthly Action Plan – By Grade

Seniors

  • Keep writing! If you started writing when apps opened this summer, you should have quite a few applications completed by this time. Please do not save essay writing (or any part of this process) for the last minute. Submit applications as soon as possible!
  • Talk to your school counselor and letter of recommendation writers and make sure they are aware of your early deadlines.
  • Continue connecting with students, faculty, and staff. Remember to interview where applicable and take lots of notes. The information you gather is often perfect material for supplemental “Why School” essays and interest letters after you apply!
  • If your school hosts a college fair or individual college visits (virtually this year), please attend and meet the reps from the schools on your list. If you have already met them, it is still beneficial to stop by and say hello to demonstrate interest.
  • Prep for interviews. Remember, if the schools on your list have on-campus or local interviews that are candidate-initiated, you must schedule them. Check the schools on your list. All of this information is provided on schools’ admissions websites.
  • Have standardized test scores sent to all of the colleges on your list, if required; please send scores now so they arrive before deadlines. Some schools no longer require you to send officials, so please review each school’s application instructions to confirm. You can also review the list here: https://www.compassprep.com/self-reporting-test-scores/  *there is no penalty if you send them and they are not required at the time you apply. And if you are applying test-optional, this does not apply to you!

Juniors

  • If you look at your resume, are your academic interests clear? If yes, then your academic narrative is developed. A clear-cut academic narrative is beneficial; if you are undecided, then you should be exploring multiple interests. It is okay to be undecided as long as you are actively working on finding your niche. Please keep in mind that colleges aren’t looking for you to have it all 100% figured out; they are more concerned that you have interests and that you act on them (they want to see that you are intellectually curious and act on that curiosity!).
  • Now is the time to plan the rest of junior year in terms of testing. When will you take the ACT or SAT? Should you take SAT Subject Tests? How many and which ones? When might you take them? Have you started formal test prep? Now is the time to start! If you need test prep resources, please reach out. 
  • Although we do not suggest formally prepping for the PSAT, if you would like to get a sense of what is on the test, you can read more here: https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/psat-nmsqt-psat-10/practice
  • Meet with your school guidance counselor. S/he will write one of your letters of recommendation for college, and it’s a much more personal letter if you know each other. Talk about your plans for this year and next year; let them know about your preliminary college list, any visits you have scheduled, and your testing plan.
  • Visit the websites of the schools you are interested in, and explore the admissions and academics pages. Start to think about your major(s) of interest and how the activities you are involved in support these interests. If possible, we want to determine what major(s) options you will list on your applications sooner rather than later so you can best prepare yourself for talking about these interests in your apps. If you need suggestions for activities based on your interests (for example, Coursera courses, independent projects, etc.), let us know—we help with this!
  • Fall is a great time to visit colleges (virtually or in-person if you can), so plan some visits. Schools are offering many online opportunities, so take advantage of them now. Whether you can get to campus or not, take virtual tours via CampusReel, too.
  • Do you have a plan in place to get more involved with any of your extracurricular activities? Look for leadership opportunities in school clubs and activities outside of school too. Remember, leadership is far more than leading a school club or sports team. Read more here (What is Leadership)!

Sophomores and Freshmen

  • An impressive academic record is the most important admissions factor at most colleges. A rigorous course schedule shows intellectual curiosity, a willingness to challenge yourself, and that you are comfortable with hard work. Your number one priority this year should be your grades!
  • If you haven’t done so already, get involved in activities in your area(s) of interest both inside and outside of school. Seek out opportunities to develop leadership roles. Depth, not breadth of experience, is key. Most colleges prefer to see fewer activities, but in which you are involved in a significant, meaningful way. Evidence of leadership, initiative, commitment, and meaningful engagement is important. Avoid the laundry list resume.
  • Starting your own club, website, or community service project can show initiative, dedication, and leadership. If you are interested in creating an opportunity for yourself that is not available at your school or through a formal program, contact us, because we can help!
  • Many schools allow 10th graders to take a practice PSAT.  The experience of taking the PSAT as a sophomore will give you a sense of what to expect in future exams. However, you don’t need to prep for it.
  • Schedule a meeting to discuss your high school game plan with your guidance counselor. Your guidance or college counselor will write you a letter of recommendation when you apply to college, so make an effort to get to know them and for them to get to know you.

 

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Cornell Adds “Score Free” Policy (AKA Test Blind) for Some Colleges

Cornell Adds “Score Free” Policy (AKA Test Blind) for Some Colleges

Fall 2021 First-Year Applicants: If you are considering or planning to take the SAT or ACT for the first time or to repeat testing again this year (2020), please do not feel you need to do this unless you are able to take the exam locally near your home and you feel safe in doing so. As a reminder, we will evaluate your application without standardized testing. For your health and safety, please always adhere to your local and state COVID-19 guidelines.

The SARS-COV-2 pandemic emergency has led to many SAT and ACT administration cancellations. Due to this extraordinary circumstance, students seeking to enroll at Cornell University beginning in August 2021 can submit their applications without including the results from ACT or SAT exams. This will be true for both the Early Decision and Regular Decision rounds of review.

For those who have taken, or who can take, ACT and SAT exams

Cornell overall has not planned to adopt a test-optional admission policy permanently. As appears to be true at test-optional colleges and universities, we anticipate that many students who will have had reasonable and uninterrupted opportunities to take the ACT and/or SAT during 2020 administrations will continue to submit results, and those results will continue to demonstrate preparation for college-level work.

In Cornell’s review during the 2020-2021 application cycle, results from the ACT or SAT might still be a meaningful differentiator in particular for students who:

  • live near or attend a school that will be open, and where testing will be offered, or who live near a testing center that will be offering more testing seats or dates than they did in 2019; and
  • have not experienced lost income for one or more of their household providers or other significant new hardships and losses during 2020.

We can’t pre-define in absolute, comprehensive terms what economic or personal disruptions will look like. We don’t plan to require any students to justify their reasons for not submitting test results.

Students who have taken a test, or even more than one test, but would still prefer not to submit those results, can make that choice.

For those who can’t plan for, take, and submit exams

Cornell readers will consider with increased scrutiny their other application documents, looking for different evidence of excellent academic preparation, including:

  • challenging courses and excellent grades in each secondary school (high school) context. Note: there will be no negative interpretation for schools and students who have had only pass/fail or similar grading options during this current term;
  • evidence of commitment and effort to pursuing other challenging learning experiences; 
  • results from other kinds of secondary, college-preparatory, and university-qualifying testing where available and verifiable; 
  • care, craft, and authenticity in their writing submissions; 
  • and wherever practical and available, details, insight, and analysis from secondary school counselors and teachers. 

Applicants with no test results might more often be asked after review has begun for additional evidence of continuing preparation, including grade reports from current senior year enrollment when that can be made available in time for Cornell admission review. 

(Score-Free) Cornell colleges that will be score-free 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

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

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

Future Cornell testing requirements

This emergency suspension for applicants during 2020 does not include guidance for applicants who will be graduating from high school after summer of 2021. We will evaluate our experience during the upcoming reading months and review our policies and options with an intent to announce new guidance in February 2021. For now, this is a one-year relief intended for students now entering their senior year in high school, who had been assembling a distinguished record of achievement until the COVID-19 disruption started in their country, region, or school, and who continue to seek the higher education opportunities toward which their efforts had been directed.

 

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More Colleges Going Test-Optional (Update 6/26)

More Colleges Going Test-Optional (Update 6/26)

Okay, so just about everyone is TO for this year!

Some of the recent additions to the list are below, but please go to FairTest.org for a full list:

Amherst (1 year)
Babson (1 year)
Bentley
Boston University (1 year)
Brown (temporary)
California State Schools – CSU’s
Case Western University
Chapman University
Claremont McKenna (temporary)
Colgate (1 year)
College of Charleston
College of New Jersey
Columbia (temporary)
Cornell (temporary)
Dartmouth (temporary)
Davidson (3-year trial)
Elon (3-year pilot)
Fordham (2-year pilot)
Gonzaga (temporary)
Hamilton (1 year)
Harvard (temporary)
Haverford (3-year trial)
Indiana University
JHU (temporary)
Loyola Marymount (1 year)
Loyola New Orleans (TEST BLIND)
Macalester
Michigan State (1 year)
Middlebury (3-year pilot)
Northeastern (1 year)
Northwestern (temporary)
Oberlin (3-year pilot)
Occidental (1 year)
Ohio State (temporary)
Penn (temporary)
PSU
Pomona College (1 year)
Princeton (temporary)
RPI
Rhodes College
Rochester Institute of Technology
Rowan
Rutgers
Santa Clara University (2-year pilot)
SMU
Stanford (temporary)
Swarthmore (2-year pilot)
Syracuse
Texas Christian University (temporary)
Tufts (3-year trial)
Tulane (1 year)
University of California (temporary)
University of Oregon
University of Richmond (temporary)
University of San Diego
University of Southern California (temporary)
UT Austin (temporary)
UVA (temporary)
University of Washington (temporary)
Vassar (1 year)
Villanova (temporary)
Virginia Tech (1 year)
Washington & Lee (temporary)
Wellesley (temporary)
William and Mary (3-year pilot)
Williams
Yale (temporary)

Please note: going TO does not mean schools will be “easier” to get into. And when a school goes test-optional, it does not mean that you automatically should apply without test scores. There are very few students who benefit from applying without test scores to many top-tier colleges.

Also, test-optional and test-blind are two different things; watch out for articles citing schools as test blind when they really mean just test-optional.

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Test Optional Does Not Mean Test Blind

Test Optional Does Not Mean Test Blind

Important article via Applerouth on the move to test-optional at many schools. This mirrors what we have been discussing with clients. In short, test scores can and will still matter for most clients. Read the full article here–and some highlights:

While test scores are no longer required to complete an application, the vast majority of test-optional schools still welcome test scores and value strong scores in the admissions process

Test-optional admissions policies were already on the rise before COVID-19 led to test cancellations this spring. For many colleges, adopting a test-optional admissions policy can be beneficial. Test-optional schools tend to see the following changes in their admissions patterns:

These factors have been at work for years!

Whether you are looking at a school that is temporarily test-optional for the coming year or one that has a permanent test-optional policy in place, the same wisdom applies: test-optional does not mean test-blind. Sometimes students think that if a school is test-optional, test scores will no longer play a major role in admissions. This is a misconception. 

Test-optional admission opens a lane for students who do not test as well or have limited access to testing and supportive resources, like test prep, while continuing to value strong test scores. There are effectively two admissions tracks with slightly different criteria. Students who do not submit scores will be evaluated on the rest of their application, including grades and extracurricular involvement, but they lack the additional evidence that test scores can provide in a competitive admissions environment.

As we move toward a landscape with more test-optional schools, be careful not to conflate test-optional with test-blind. Testing continues to play an important role for many students applying to test-optional schools and will do so for the foreseeable future. It’s only natural: in the midst of heavy competition, applicants will take every opportunity to distinguish themselves.

 

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Regarding the “New” SAT

Thank you, Bob Schaeffer, for pointing out what may not be obvious to the masses: The “new” SAT, and let’s not forget the ACT, will remain a weak predictor of undergraduate success. High school grades will continue to provide more accurate forecasts of college graduation.

Read his letter in The Opinion Pages here.