Colleges that ditched test scores for admissions find it’s harder to be fair in choosing students, researcher says



One college admissions officer at a large public university described how test-optional admissions had spurred more disagreements in his office. A third reader on an application was often called in to break a tie when one staffer said ‘yes’ and another said ‘no.’ Without SAT and ACT scores, he explained, the job of admitting students had become more subjective and more time-consuming. “I feel like everyone who reviews applications has their own perspective or opinion,” he said.

This sobering anecdote comes from a research project led by Kelly Slay, an assistant professor at Vanderbilt University, who has been conducting in-depth interviews with admissions officers in 2022 to understand how the elimination of SAT and ACT testing requirements has been playing out inside colleges and universities. According to Slay, admissions officers often described a “chaotic” and “stressful” process where they lacked clear guidance on how to select students without test scores. Admissions officers at selective colleges were also “overwhelmed” by the volume of applicants that test-optional policies had unleashed.

“One of our key findings were the tensions that were emerging around these test optional policies,” said Slay. “There’s a struggle on how to implement them.”



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