Higher Education Discards the SATs

By Rebekah Devorak | Opinions Editor

The SATs and ACTs are nothing short of a cringe-worthy experience.

While The College Board states that the No. 1 reason why students take standardized tests is for applying to colleges, those scores are finally not all that important in the newest movement for higher education.

Last October, Duquesne’s McAnulty College of Liberal Arts became the first school to make standardized testing optional for admission.

This does not mean that students do not need to be in high academic standing upon applying. The university instead devised these requirements: students must have at least a 3.0 cumulative grade-point average, a college preparatory curriculum, extracurricular involvement and an essay submission. The class of 2019 was the first class able to apply with this option.

Duquesne University joins close to 1,000 other schools that have provided the option to not use standardized testing in admissions, according to The National Center for Fair and Open Testing.

While Duquesne has no time table for making this option available to other schools within the university, this is a promising start to giving all students the best chance possible for being accepted into college.

According to the American Test Anxieties Association, almost 20 percent of students suffer from high test anxiety. The Anxiety and Depression Association of America defines test anxiety as when a student studies for an upcoming exam and confidently knows the material, but becomes so overwhelmed with fear and anxiety when it comes time for the actual test that they “blank” and perform poorly. If the student doesn’t score well on exams, there’s a good chance they won’t be accepted into the college of their dreams.

But with testing optional admission, this pressure is relieved. Those students no longer have to dread standardized testing because it isn’t the only thing that colleges are assessing anymore. Most students who have test anxiety usually perform well in other methods used for gauging understanding, such as projects or participation. Their individual strengths can be evaluated, and it takes the emphasis off of scoring well and places it on actual learning.

Testing optional admission also benefits those who cannot afford standardized testing. Families with low income can receive fee waivers for the SAT and ACT, but they are limited to only two. If there is a student from a low-income family who also has test anxiety, he or she may need more than two chances to score well enough to meet a specific college’s standards.

Apart from the cost of the actual test, many schools recommend extra tutoring before taking the SAT or ACT. A face-to-face tutor can cost anywhere up to $2,000, according to U.S. News. One online course coupled with an SAT study guide book from The College Board is almost $70. These extras usually aren’t in the budget for low-income families. Testing optional admission levels the playing field so that money is no longer a subconscious determining factor in college admission.

One major con to testing optional admission is that it is usually reserved for liberal arts colleges only. Perhaps this is because other schools, such as pharmacy or law, often have standardized tests already woven into the university curriculum. There are also specific entrance exams apart from the SAT or ACT required for particular majors that universities require.

Either way, it could be beneficial to introduce testing optional admission into other schools besides liberal arts. Not only would it alleviate the issues mentioned above, but it could open up the doors for students to explore other career options. It’s easy for a student to dream about becoming a doctor but then be deterred by needing a specific test score to get into medical school.

Duquesne’s McAnulty College of Liberal Arts, as well as higher education in general, is definitely taking a step in the right direction by implementing testing optional admission.