Nixing test scores on applications could improve quality of student body

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    Just by its mission statement alone, “To educate individuals to think and act as ethical leaders and responsible citizens in the global community,” it is obvious TCU puts a high value on leadership and community awareness.

    But to get to the point where college students can put those words into action, they must first be admitted to college. This usually involves stressing about scholarships, financial aid and, above all, standardized test scores.

    If the score is high enough, it might be good enough to get students into their dream schools. If not, then tough luck. This mentality, though, could soon change.

    According to a Feb. 17 article from The Chronicle of Higher Education, DePaul University in Chicago now has a policy that gives students the choice to write essays that measure “noncognitive traits” such as leadership skills and community awareness instead of submitting ACT or SAT scores. Starting with the freshman who in 2012 would apply to be the class of 2016, this policy would make DePaul the largest private nonprofit university to not require submitting standardized test scores for admission.

    According to the article, Depaul’s Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Jon Boeckenstedt said this would be the start of a trend at the university and could serve as a model for other universities.

    He said this new way of looking at admission would give low-income students, underprivileged minorities and other groups that have high GPAs but lower SAT or ACT scores the chance to go to a prestigious university.

    Boeckenstedt said he believed having students write essays instead of submitting test scores would give the university a broader spectrum to choose from, as well as a better gauge to determine success.

    DePaul currently has 16,000 undergraduates enrolled and could be looking at many more applicants if this new idea works. Compare that with TCU, which currently enrolls almost 8,000 undergraduates and is experiencing a trend of steady admission increase.

    Going totally test-free would be a good idea for TCU because of that very problem. The admission office already has to deal with a sudden increase in submitted applications 8212; why not select the students based on the very values on which the university prides itself? Or, if that seems too ideological, consider the money 8212; more admitted students means more money for the university. It would be a good investment as well, considering that the admitted students would theoretically go on to be conscientious members of society.

    If the university chose to admit students based on the traits it already tries to instill in its students, it would be a much more meaningful accomplishment to be accepted to TCU. Instead of a score that grades students based on how well they know what College Board thinks they should know, why not grade them on what they have already accomplished?

    In fact, it might actually cause SAT and ACT scores to go up for students who do choose to submit them, at least on the reading and writing sections.

    As of 2010, the average SAT score was 1500 out of 2400, and the average ACT score was 21 out of 36. The problem with that statistic is that if most high schools actively teach students how to take the test and a majority of students still only score in the mid-percentile range for both of them, then something is wrong.

    This new policy could actually improve literacy among high school students if the teachers taught more about how to write a good essay instead of how to properly guess on a multiple choice question. However, it would be bad for College Board and ACT, Inc., the companies that distribute the SAT and ACT. Revenue would go down for both of those companies as a result of students’ refusal to take the tests if a cheaper alternative were available.

    Not requiring test scores on applications would be a beneficial and welcome change to the college environment and might actually make more students want to go to college.

    Jake Harris is a freshman journalism major from Wahiawa, Hawaii.