Like every other student that has gone through the college admissions process, I understand the exhausting nature of standardized testing requirements. With different requirements depending on the school, navigating the aggravating world of the SAT, ACT, optional essay portion and subject tests is taxing on even the best student.
Aside from just being a cause of undue stress on students, standardized testing has been called into question for its merits in recent years. Studies have demonstrated that the SAT appears to favor high-income and educated families over students from lower-income and minority backgrounds, exhibiting a direct correlation between income level and test score.
The University made the right decision by going test-optional in 2015, a move which has undoubtedly improved the lives of students. But many students still feel compelled to submit standardized test scores out of fear that their application will be seen as less competitive than their peers. The percentage of students submitting SAT scores to GW has fallen from 70 to 46 percent since the test-optional policy was adopted but the percentage for students submitted ACT scores has remained stable – suggesting that while the test-optional policy has had an effect, many applicants still feel pressured to submit a test score.
The test-optional trend is a positive change in higher education, but there is still room for GW and other universities to improve. The University should take its test-optional policy one step further and become the first U.S. university to not accept standardized test scores at all. No student should feel discouraged from applying to a college because they aren’t a good test taker or didn’t have the resources and support to perform as well as their peers on a standardized test. As long as GW accepts standardized tests, it is supporting a system that values numbers over individuals.
The positives of this practice can be seen in the effects since GW implemented its test-optional policy. After GW implemented the new policy, minority representation in the freshman class increased by 33 percent in just one year. Even further, officials found students who don’t submit scores have about the same first-year GPA as those who did, demonstrating that test scores are not a predictor of success in college. Separate data based on other universities also showed that a school going test-optional has little to no effect on graduation rates.
By not accepting test scores, many lower-income students will be able to afford to apply to GW, helping increase student financial diversity. Just as GW focuses on racial diversity, it should also seek to improve financial diversity as about 14 percent of students are in the top 1 percent of median family incomes. Affluent students are able to afford test-prep classes, purchase extra study materials and retake exams, which can cost up to $64.50, multiple times – all factors that are necessary to perform well because standardized tests are more about test-taking strategy than knowledge of the material. Even sending SAT and ACT scores to colleges costs $12 per school, which can add up quickly for students applying to multiple universities.
Students who did not perform to their best ability on their high school report card may use standardized tests to demonstrate they are academically competitive, but there are other ways for applicants to prove they’re capable of success in college than an SAT or ACT score, including a personal statement or strong essay.
Standardized tests often measure how many resources are at a student’s disposal rather than a student’s qualifications. The flawed metric is a disservice to all schools and students and although standardized tests are the status quo in college admissions – this practice can be changed starting with GW.
As long as GW still accepts standardized tests, students will perceive that those who submit test scores will be viewed more favorably than other students. The cycle of stress for students and their families, both mental and financial, continues every year due to standardized tests. GW has an opportunity to be a leader and pave the way for an admissions process that truly judges students on their merit, which the SAT and ACT have repeatedly failed to showcase.
For a school that is often criticized for lacking both racial and socioeconomic diversity, adopting a policy of not accepting standardized test scores in admissions can help GW take another step in the right direction toward a truly fair college admissions process.
Marc Chaaban, a freshman majoring in political science, is a Hatchet opinions writer.
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