The Case for Eliminating Standardized Test Scores: Will Other Schools Follow Hampshire’s Lead?

While certain schools, including Smith, follow a test-optional policy, Hampshire recently decided to implement an entirely standardized test-free application.

Photo courtesy of GazetteNet.com | While certain schools, including Smith, follow a test-optional policy, Hampshire recently decided to implement an entirely standardized test-free application.

Nora Turriago ‘16
Opinions Editor

What happens when a college excludes standardized test scores from consideration? This past week, Hampshire College found out. Last fall, Hampshire stopped accepting applicants’ SAT and ACT scores. One year later, the initial results from this change are in and they are promising.

Get this: the percentage of students who accepted enrollment rose from 18 percent to 26 percent; the percentage of first generation college students rose from 10 percent to 18 percent and class diversity increased to 31 percent students of color. Not bad.

An explanation of the removal of SAT/ACT scores by Hampshire College President Jonathan Lash was included in a Washington Post article, providing insight into the decision for this new policy. He said, “Our shift to a mission-based driven approach to admissions is right for Hampshire College and the right thing to do. We fail students if we reduce them to a standardized test number tied more to their financial status than achievement. We fail students by perpetuating the myth that high standardized test scores signal ‘better’ students.”

President Lash, I am in complete agreement. It’s no secret that standardized tests have many faults; the most obvious of which is that they do not accurately reveal much about a student. As someone who — and there’s no other way to put this — did quite horribly on the SATs (math was always my downfall!), one reason Smith appealed to me was precisely because it was test optional. I knew this meant Smith would pay more attention to the person I was, instead of my test scores. I remember wishing all colleges were test optional, because I knew my SAT scores immediately eliminated me from the applicant pool of some of the colleges I was looking at.  It didn’t matter how high my GPA was or what a deep and unabiding passion for community service I had (and trust me, high school students are always so sure that community service will be their magic ticket into an Ivy League school. Ah, to be young and naïve). As I would soon find out, my choices for applying to colleges had already begun to narrow, just because of a few measly scores.

Standardized testing seems even more ridiculous when one ponders the true reasons for taking the SATs. The test scores don’t indicate your intelligence level. They certainly don’t indicate whether a student will be successful in college. Let’s also not forget that standardized testing is notorious for its flaws: for example, a strong bias against low-income students, women and students of color. Is it any wonder that Hampshire decided to do away with the SATs? Lash shared that this year’s freshmen class is more qualified according to other measures than earlier classes have been and that while the quantity of applicants went down, the quality went up (Hampshire added more application essays).

Although the U.S. News & World report refused to include Hampshire in annual rankings, I applaud Lash’s decision and look forward to seeing how the policy will impact Hampshire’s application process over time. Now, if only other colleges would get the hint.

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