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Applications to Become “Test Optional” in 2016

(Robert Manor / Index)

Kalamazoo College will no longer require applicants to submit ACT and SAT standardized test scores starting in the fall of 2016—making it the first highly selective liberal arts college in Michigan with a “test optional” admission process.

The College’s decision connects it with a growing number of colleges and universities that have also chosen to go “test optional.” According to fairtest.org, over 800 institutions of higher learning nationwide have also made the switch.

Dean of Admission and Financial Aid Eric Staab explained that the decision came as the result of a two-year-long study by the College’s Admission and Financial Aid Committee (AFAC).

The AFAC’s study cross-referenced academic data from the classes of 2013-2016 with the admission factors that got them accepted: high school GPA, strength of schedule, participation in co-curricular activities, application essays, and standardized test scores.

The study found that high school GPA and strength of schedule were valuable indicators of future academic success, but standardized test scores offered little insight.

While K’s findings noted little correlation between the scores and academic success, research conducted by the University of California and the University of Texas found that standardized tests are better indicators of an applicant’s economic advantages or disadvantages than academic aptitude. Because of this, Robert Schaeffer, the National Center for Fair & Open Testing’s Public Education Director, describes the ACT and SAT as “wealth tests.”

According to Staab, the issue of parity in admissions was also an important factor for College faculty and administrators.

“This was about making admissions more equitable,” Staab said. “Given that studies have found a correlation between income and test scores, it seems unfair to use test scores in the admission process.”

The decision to drop mandatory test scores came from a faculty vote in November 2014. K’s announcement of the vote followed the March 23 release of the Admissions Office’s final round of acceptance letters to the Class of 2019.

“Because this decision doesn’t take effect until next year, we waited to announce until after [this year’s] admission decisions were made,” Staab explained.

While the criteria of admission will change, administrators maintain that the process will be as competitive as ever.

“Admission to K always has been—and will continue to be—very selective,” Staab said.

“We believe the change will attract students who may not do well on standardized tests, but who tend to think outside the box. And that prospect can be very exciting for the College,” Associate Professor of Biology and AFAC’s principal investigator Ann Fraser added.

The College will conduct a follow-up study to determine the new approach’s effectiveness once it takes effect.

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Applications to Become “Test Optional” in 2016