Updated: July 27, 2015 at 10:18 p.m.
Prospective students will no longer need SAT or ACT scores to apply to GW, the University announced Monday.
The announcement comes amid a troubled admissions trend after 45 percent of applicants were accepted for this fall’s freshman class, the highest rate in more than a decade. The shift also makes GW one of the largest and the highest-ranked institutions to drop the testing requirement for applicants, allowing potential students to decide whether or not to include the scores.
The “test-optional” strategy was recommended by a University task force to help low-income students find success at GW, launched by University President Steven Knapp in 2014. Access to college, especially for minority and low-income students, has been a touchstone of Knapp’s administration, as schools nationwide increasingly focus on diversity and accessibility.
Laurie Koehler, senior associate provost for enrollment management and a member of the task force, said no longer requiring test scores will make GW more accessible to “underrepresented” groups of students like minority students, low-income students and first-generation students.
“We hope the test-optional policy sends a message to prospective students that if you are smart, hard-working and have challenged yourself in a demanding high school curriculum, there could be a place for you here,” Koehler said in the release.
Instead of relying on test scores, test-optional schools consider the future success of an applicant using their high school record and GPA. More than 125 schools are considered test-optional, including GW’s peer American University. Other peers like New York University allow students to submit results from Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate tests instead of the SAT or ACT, the Washington Post reported.
When Virginia Commonwealth University went test-optional this year, just 172 applicants did not send in their scores, the Washington Post reported. The school also saw about 450 to 500 additional applications after the change. A similar spike in applications would be a major boon for GW, because it relies on tuition for the majority of its operating revenue.
Officials have already expanded the freshman class to help make up for two years of missed budget projections. The University saw graduate and professional enrollment drop by about 1,200 students. Provost Steven Lerman said in April that officials expected to add about 150 to 200 students to this fall’s freshman class to boost revenue, explaining the higher acceptance rate.
Two years ago, GW admitted publicly for the first time that it put hundreds of students on the wait list each year if they could not afford to pay full tuition. The decisions impacted about 10 percent of GW’s 22,000 applicants each year, officials said then.
Dean of Admissions Karen Stroud Felton said in the release on Monday that the change will let “outstanding students from all over the world and from all different backgrounds” see that GW could be the right fit for them.
“Although we have long employed a holistic application review process, we had concerns that students who could be successful at GW felt discouraged from applying if their scores were not as strong as their high school performance,” Felton said in the release.
Homeschooled students or students from schools that use narrative evaluations or evaluations that do not include grades are excluded from the new policy. College athletes, and applicants looking to join a seven-year combined bachelor’s and master’s degree program are also not included.
Following the announcement, students and alumni took to Twitter to share their reactions.
@GWtweets is now a part of a community of schools that understands that a test score doesn't define a person, character does. #RaiseHigh
— Brett B. (@bpborer) July 27, 2015
why is it getting exponentially easier to get into #GWU ???
— rachael (@rachaelamendez) July 27, 2015
GW doing all the right things. Love my Alma mater. https://t.co/vBzObuiKog
— Omar T. Woodard (@OmarWoodard) July 27, 2015
Honestly? Test scores optional + need-aware admissions = seemingly larger bias toward admitting students just because they can pay #GWU
— Lauren Shiplett (@Laurlett) July 27, 2015
So wait, why are we phasing out the ACT and SAT? I thought it was dumb at the time, but always a necessary evil to compare students. #GWU
— Jason J. Lah (@JasonLah) July 27, 2015
-Colleen Murphy contributed reporting.