George Washington University Drops Standardized Test Scores From Admissions

A student reads on the campus of Columbia University in New York City on October 5, 2009. Mike Segar/Reuters

George Washington University will adopt a new policy, effective August 1, that eliminates standardized test scores as a requirement for admissions. Most undergraduate students applying to the school for the 2016-2017 academic year will have the option whether to include the SAT or ACT results, and will not be penalized for not taking the exams.

The decision to implement the policy at the school, which is located in Washington, D.C, came in response to recommendations from a university study, which concluded that administrators can determine students' success by their high school records and grade point averages, rather than by standardized test scores.

School officials said they aim to strengthen and diversify the applicant pool and broaden access for high-achieving students who are underrepresented at selective colleges.

"We hope the test-optional policy sends a message to prospective students that if you are smart, hard-working and have challenged yourself in a demanding high school curriculum, there could be a place for you here," Laurie Koehler, senior associate provost for enrollment management and co-chair of the task force committee, wrote in a statement.

The new policy exempts homeschooled applicants, students from high schools that only provide narrative evaluations, college athletes and students seeking admission for the seven-year program.

George Washington is the most recent example of hundreds of U.S. colleges choosing to be test optional.

High school coursework and grades, along with a student's writing skills, recommendations and school and community involvement will continue to be the most important factors in the admissions review process, officials said.

The standardized test for college admission was first administered in 1901, in order for colleges to have a universal way to determine whether students were prepared for the high level of coursework. The exam allowed students to take one entrance test for several universities, rather than separate ones for each college to which they applied.

When the creators of the SAT last year announced major changes to the exam, the president of the College Board criticized his own test and the ACT. David Coleman said both "have become disconnected from the work of our high schools."

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