More Colleges Embrace Test-Optional Admissions

University Testing

Add another large, public university system and a selective, private college to the ever-growing list of institutions that deemphasize standardized tests in their admissions process.


The 30,000-student University of Colorado (CU) is following the lead of the University of Texas by guaranteeing admission to in-state students who graduate in the top ten percent of their high school classes. The Texas policy has been widely praised for increasing both the diversity and academic quality of incoming classes at that state’s flagship Austin campus (see Examiner, Winter 2000-2001, Fall 1999 and Summer 1997).


“It’s a lower-your-blood-pressure promise,” said CU assistant vice president Michel Dahlin. “It’s nice for students and parents to know what it takes for a guaranteed admission.” Applicants under the program must complete a core precollegiate curriculum. All students with a minimum high school grade point average of 3.8 are also eligible, even if they were not in the top ten percent of their class, as are students with a 3.5 GPA graduating in the top 25%.


Unlike Texas, Colorado will not allow students to automatically enroll at whatever campus they prefer. That decision will still be made by school officials. “If all the slots are filled, say, at Boulder, we will guarantee them admission to one of our campuses,” explained CU spokeswoman Michele McKinney. She added, “The intention is to satisfy their first choice.” Other UC facilities are located in Denver and Colorado Springs. The CU policy begins with students admitted for the Fall of 2006.


Since 1994, Susquehanna University(SU) in Selinsgrove, Pennsylvania, has allowed applicants graduating in the top 20 percent of their high school classes to bypass the SAT by submitting two graded writing samples. The same policy applied to students who had grade point averages of at least 3.0 in schools without class ranks.


Due to the success of the “Write Option,” Susquehanna decided this fall to extend that policy to all candidates for admission, effective immediately. “Our research shows that students who’ve been admitted to Susquehanna through our Write Option program have nearly identical SU grade point averages and graduation rates as their peers who’ve submitted SAT or ACT scores,” explained Director of Admissions Chris Markle. “Academic performance in high school really seems to be the best predictor of academic success in college.”


Examples of acceptable writing samples include analyses of books, science research projects and position papers. According to Markle this reflects Susquehanna’s finding that, “our most successful students tend to be those who’ve challenged themselves by pursuing a rigorous high school curriculum.”


Look for the “optional list” to expand again in the next few months: several other colleges reviewing their admissions requirements have recently contacted FairTest seeking information.


• FairTest’s popular list of more than 700 accredited, bachelor-degree granting institutions of higher learning is available at here. 

• “Test Scores Do Not Equal Merit” a guide to adopting and implementing test-score optional admissions policies is on-line at: