Westminster College will waive its requirements for ACT or SAT scores as part of its enrollment application beginning in the Fall of 2021. The college will make test score submissions optional, creating a more “holistic review,” according to the admissions office.
Under a test-optional review process, prospective students can choose whether to include their test scores. Instead, applicants can submit personal essays, teacher recommendations, extracurricular activities or leadership positions the individual has held.
“The transition to a more holistic review has been part of the admissions office and the enrollment vision as a whole,” said Quincey Otuafi, director of undergraduate admissions. “Part of our goal is to maintain and continue to make adaptions to our admissions policy based on a holistic process.”
This move reflects a wider trend across the U.S. as several colleges and universities have decided to waive ACT/SAT scores in response to the COVID-19 pandemic — causing tests across the country to be canceled.
The University of Utah announced Friday it would also waive the test score requirements for the next two years. In the meantime, the university may consider dropping the requirement altogether, according to an article in the Salt Lake Tribune.
Conversations surrounding waiving test score requirements have been present at Westminster over the last several years, citing problems that go beyond the COVID-19 pandemic.
In December, ASW passed a resolution presented by former Chief Justice Kate Pasco and Sen. Jose Ortiz that proposed making test scores optional for prospective students.
“Standardized tests are discriminatory on the basis of race, ethnicity, class and gender,” Pasco said during the December Senate meeting. “Even when test-takers are not penalized for incorrect answers.”
Critics argue test scores disproportionately affect high school students in lower socioeconomic classes. Wealthy families can often provide resources that others can’t: Private tutors, schools with plentiful resources, specialized extracurricular activities, etc.
“Those are definitely components of this decision,” Otuafi said. “The research will show that there is a disproportionate advantage based on socioeconomic status.”
Richard Badenhausen, founding dean of the Honors College at Westminster, has been a proponent of employing holistic approaches to the enrollment process — citing the disproportionate effects and how it cedes inclusivity.
“Potential students should be able to envision themselves in higher education settings, which means that the narratives we construct around what it means to be in college must be stories that resonate with students from different races, ethnicities, classes, genders, abilities, ages, and other identities,” said Badenhausen in an email sent to The Forum.
The Honors College does not require test scores for its application, and last year it eliminated the minimum ACT/SAT threshold for high school students to be eligible to apply.
Research has shown test scores correlate positively from family income, according to Badenhausen. Therefore, colleges that strictly use these data points to admit students are “simply reinforcing existing structures of privilege.”
“The concepts of ‘success’ and ‘excellence’ have traditionally been so narrowly drawn around artifacts like test scores,” Badenhausen said. “Which really are just measures of the benefits of privilege. […] They covertly discourage students who don’t fit into these boxes to see themselves in the success stories we tell and this dissuade them from even applying.”
Badenhausen has used this research and practices within the Honors College to encourage Westminster admissions to follow suit. By removing barriers like test scores, he said the school can achieve greater diversity.
“We have never required test scores for transfer students and they excel as a group and tend to be a more diverse population than the traditional first-year entering class,” Badenhausen said. “It’s not a coincidence that you will get greater diversity at an institution when you remove barriers like standardized tests.”