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‘This is the trend’: Washington State University no longer using SAT, ACT scores for admission

UPDATED: Wed., March 17, 2021

Washington State University will stop using SAT and ACT scores as a criteria for admission.  (Shutterstock)
Washington State University will stop using SAT and ACT scores as a criteria for admission. (Shutterstock)

Washington State University will no longer use SAT and ACT scores when considering student applications for enrollment.

The university’s Board of Trustees moved late last week to stop requiring or utilizing SAT and ACT scores with WSU’s admissions process. The approved plan also recommended discontinuing using the use of the scores in the selection process for scholarships and tuition waivers.

“This is the trend,” Provost and Executive Vice President Elizabeth Chilton said in a statement. “I think COVID just sort of pushed a number of colleges and universities a little further along because we saw that we were able to make informed decisions without those scores.”

Other area institutions have taken similar action in the past year. Gonzaga University, Eastern Washington University and the University of Washington are test-optional, while the COVID-19 pandemic has pushed a growing number of colleges and universities across the country to reconsider their standardized testing requirements.

For WSU, Chilton said admissions officers will instead rely on grade point average, student transcripts, letters of recommendations, extracurricular activity statements and admissions essays.

“This takes a deeper dive and puts more responsibility on our admissions officers because it isn’t just look at the score and you’re in or you’re out,” she said.

During her presentation to the Board of Regents last week, Chilton referenced university data that showed how WSU’s six-year graduation and first-year retention rates are higher for students with a high school GPA above 3.5 than students with scores above 1200 on the SAT.

“That isn’t to say that we will discourage students from taking the test at all because … some external scholarships and grants will require that students have taken the SATs and ACTs,” Chilton said. “We can’t obviously influence external bodies and granting agencies and foundations and such, so we will make sure to remind students that they should look for those other requirements and take them if they feel it’s necessary.”

WSU officials said the move to test-optional is “overwhelmingly supported” by university chancellors, deans, vice presidents and other campus partners as well as leaders in enrollment management, academic engagement and student achievement.

The university has begun similar conversations involving the GRE (Graduate Record Examination), the “SAT equivalent for graduate school,” Chilton said.

“At pretty much all levels, standardized tests do not assess what it takes to be successful,” said Greg Crouch, the Board of Regents faculty representative. “It doesn’t assess resilience. It doesn’t assess creativity sometimes. So I think that we’re holding onto an institution that is, in many ways, excludes the students that (it’s) our mission to teach.”

Scott Kerwien, director of College and Career Readiness at Spokane Public Schools, said he finds it “refreshing” to see more and more colleges and universities go test-optional.

Kerwien said the COVID-19 pandemic has led to greater focus on issues with certain existing processes, including how standardized testing is biased against low-income students.

“As an educational system, we’re trying to be more keenly aware of the barriers that we might put in place for kids versus the barriers that might exist through their lives in general. This is one of the many that we’re trying to work through,” Kerwien said. “When we ‘go back to normal’ again, I think we’ll still be having this conversation with our role with the SAT to make sure we’re keeping all doors open with students.”

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