Though some American colleges and universities are making standardized tests an optional part of their applications, TCU does not plan to change requirements as of now.
On Feb. 17, DePaul University in Chicago announced it will adopt a test-optional alternative for freshman applicants starting in fall 2012, according to The Chronicle of Higher Education. Applicants are responsible to submit their high school transcripts but they now have the option of submitting either their standardized test scores or answer a few open-ended essay questions, according to DePaul.
Dean of Admission Ray Brown said that while TCU would consider making such a change, most members of the admission industry believe the switch from standardized testing could be considered a marketing device by DePaul.
“I think most schools have different reasons. My guess is that Wake Forest is doing it because of where they are located,” Brown said. “They are in North Carolina in the midst of Duke and University of North Carolina territory, which they’re the third university in that triad.”
DePaul joins Bates College, College of the Holy Cross, Fairfield University, Lawrence University, Providence College and Wake Forest University, which have successfully implemented similar admission policies, according to the DePaul website.
“Standardized tests can’t measure the heart, can’t measure initiative and they can’t measure more qualitative types of things,” Brown said.
Brown said TCU uses letters of recommendation, rÃÂ©sumÃÂ©s and essays to determine the noncognitive traits of a student. Unlike any other school, he said TCU offered the freedom of expression to add to the application. Freedom of expression is the optional opportunity for applicants to fill a page with anything that will help the admission department to get to know them better.
Brown said, though, that he did not want to dismiss the importance of standardized tests.
“I am not a standardized exam basher,” Brown said. “I believe they add more information to the equation.”
He said the standardized tests count for about 20 to 25 percent in the admission decision.
“For the majority of [students], the test is pretty much representative of what they can do,” Brown said. “I do believe there are some people who just don’t test well, but not as many as they say they do.”
For the TCU class of 2014, the median SAT score was 1760 and ACT score was 27, Brown said.
“[TCU] is about as sane in as you’re going to find when it comes to the use of standardized exams in the admission process,” Brown said. “We know what they’re worth and we put an appropriate amount of weight on them, but we are far more interested in the transcript.”
The transcript is weighted 45 to 50 percent of the entire decision, Brown said. He said the transcript has become important because it shows the admission committee not only grades but the rigor of a student’s curriculum.
Brown said a test-optional school would create a higher average SAT score because only applicants with high scores would be inclined to submit them.
Although schools may change policies for marketing purposes, eliminating standardized exams keeps students from “gaining the system,” Brown said. Several students coming from wealthy families can take test preparation classes and afford to take the exams three or four times are “gaining from the system.”
On the other hand, he said, there are students at a disadvantage for test preparation, which is why some schools are making standardized exams optional.
Junior strategic communication and film-television-digital media double major Katie McGee said she didn’t think test preparation materials didn’t assure success.
“[SAT preparation] was incredibly expensive,” McGee said. “I didn’t want to waste money on something that wasn’t a guarantee. If you can pay for it, good for you, but it’s taking away from the people who can’t afford it.”
Associate Director of Admission Michael Marshall said he believed the standardized tests were still important for the schools that use the tests appropriately.
“Our primary focus is what students are doing in the classroom,” Marshall said.
He said the primary focus of the admission committee is the transcript, which is the living document that shows a student is taking care of business in the classroom. The transcript gives a college a better opportunity to gauge a student’s ability to make the transition from high school to college, Marshall said.
“Standardized tests can help offer more insight, so the admissions committee can make sounder decisions,” Marshall said. “But the standardized tests are only one part of the big picture.”