Should Colleges Require Applicants to Submit SAT or ACT Scores?

Five years ago, Wesleyan University decided to make test scores optional during the admissions process and the university president says others that haven’t already should do the same.

Whether or not a college or university requires standardized testing as part of the admissions process is something for high school seniors to consider.

On the Wesleyan University campus in Middletown, a third of the enrolled students did not submit test scores with their applications.

“I never was a great test taker so both of them terrified me,” Wesleyan junior Ricardo Vazquez from Hartford said.

Vazquez said he looked for schools that didn’t insist on seeing how well he did on the SAT or ACT.

“I had a very strong profile overall when I was applying to colleges,” he said, “but I felt like the test score really took me back.”

Five years ago Wesleyan University decided to make standardized test scores optional during the admission process. Since then the university president Michael Roth told NBC Connecticut the applicant pool has become more diverse with more students fromlow-incomee families applying.

“Well, I was always really skeptical about the standardized part of standardized testing,” Roth said.

Roth said that skepticism and an observation from his daughter influenced the change in the admissions process.

“She was getting was getting tutored for her exams and she said to me dad, this is not fair I’m getting help and my friend who doesn’t have access to a tutor isn’t getting any help at all and I said yeah life is unfair and she said well you’re actually a university president you could do something at Wesleyan,” Roth said.

Quinnipiac University in Hamden is test optional depending on the school and program, Associate Vice President for Public Relations John Morgan said.

Yale University still requires test scores. The admissions website says they are viewed “within the context of the student’s entire file.”

Greenwich lawyer Gordon Caplan has pleaded guilty for his part in the nationwide college admissions scandal dubbed “Operation Varsity Blues.”

The former co-chairman of the New York law firm Wilkie, Farr and Gallagher became the second parent to plead guilty. Federal prosecutors accused him of paying $75,000 to have someone correct his daughter’s ACT score after she took the test.

“Grades are a much better predictor for us how they’ll do at Wesleyan than a timed exam on vocabulary words not likely to be used,” Roth said.

During the latest admissions cycle, Roth said about 80 percent of applicants still included test scores.

“Some people use it to show that they may have had bad grades the first year, second year but the SAT shows they have intellectual horsepower,” he said, “but for other people it really isn’t a valid measurement.”

Daniel Cocchiola, director of counseling at Hamden Public Schools, told NBC Connecticut he supports colleges and universities making test scores optional, but pointed out that may be more difficult for larger public universities.

Helen Li from Philadelphia visited the campus in Middletown for the first time Friday afternoon.

“I got accepted to Wesleyan for regular admissions,” the high school senior said.

Li said Wesleyan is the only college to which she applied and got accepted that did not require seeing how well she scored on the SAT.

“I took it two times and the first time was very nerve-wracking,” Li said. “So I think that’s why having the option of allowing to submit or not submit the test is definitely a benefit because I know there are students like me who are not the best test takers out there but can perform better in other areas.”

While the high profile college admissions cheating scandal has gained national attention, Roth said that’s not the only way inequality in education manifests itself.

“Not because of rich people buying SAT scores,” Roth said, “it’s because we don’t fund our high schools well enough to prepare people from all social classes to have a chance at a very successful career.”

Roth said more colleges should make the same move as Wesleyan to increase access to higher education.

“Absolutely, I actually think they should all do it,” Roth said. “I think schools that use SATs must recognize that SAT scores are correlated with wealth and that they are poor predictors of undergraduate performance.”

Vazquez said he agrees with his university’s president, even though he said he still lucked out by having a private tutor at his prep school.

“I had a lot of my friends who could not prepare for it,” Vazquez said. “Coming from Hartford there were a lot of students that they didn’t have the resource to pay for that extra tutoring.”

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