Pitzer College Makes SAT Optional

University Testing

Pitzer College, a highly selective private school in Claremont, California, is the latest in the ever-growing number of institutions to officially announce it is deemphasizing test scores in the undergraduate admissions process. Beginning with the class entering in fall 2004, Pitzer will pursue an “SAT optional” policy for at least the next three years. Applicants who rank in the top 10 percent of their high school classes or post grade point averages of at least 3.5 will not have to submit any college admissions exam results. Students with lower grades can still waive the SAT requirement by sending in graded samples of analytic writing and advanced math exams.


Pitzer President Laura Skandera Trombley explained, “After careful consideration, the Pitzer College community has voted that the SAT is inconsistent with our institution’s mission and values; that there is a crucial philosophical difference in how the College approaches education, as well as how it views its students. Pitzer College, like other great liberal arts colleges, uses a holistic approach to student admission with emphasis placed on grade point averages, involvement in school and community activities, positions of leadership held, work history, and demonstration of overcoming personal challenges.”


The news release announcing the admissions policy reforms specifically cited the positive experience of highly selective, academically rigorous liberal arts colleges, such as Bates, Bowdoin, Dickenson, Frankin and Marshall, Hamilton and Mount Holyoke, which already have “test score optional” policies.


The Pitzer decision came after two years of study and discussion by its faculty and administration. In presenting a proposal to completely eliminate the SAT to the Pitzer College Council as part of the debate last spring, Professor of Psychology and Black Studies Halford Fairchild concluded, “[T]here is nothing that our very fine admissions office can do to side-step this discrimination as long as we require the SAT as part of the admissions process.”


An internal college study had already found that high school grade point averages were better than SAT scores in predicting academic success and ultimate graduation rates at Pitzer. This conclusion is consistent with most independent admissions research. If more colleges would conduct their own admissions validity studies and heed the results, there would soon be many more additions to the ranks of “test score optional” schools.


FairTest is currently in the midst of a project to comprehensively update its popular list of “391 Schools That Do Not Use SAT I or ACT Scores for Admitting Substantial Numbers of Students Into Bachelor Degree Programs” and make it even more useful for college applicants, guidance counselors and admissions officers. A current version is available on the web here.


• For more information on this topic, see the report Test Scores Do Not Equal Merit: Enhancing Equity & Excellence in College Admissions by Deemphasizing SAT and ACT Results. Use the order form on page 31 or download a here.