Why The Test Optional Policy Should Stay

 Bowdoin College

 Last year, the world watched as college after college announced their decision to go “test optional.” This policy gives students the option of not submitting test scores—either because their scores were not reflective of their abilities or because they were not able to take the test. Other schools have gone completely test-blind, which means they are not looking at test scores at all. These actions were largely unknown before, and they were created to ease the application process during the COVID-19 pandemic. 

There is only one question that now remains: as it becomes clear that Covid is something that is here to stay, will the test-optional policy stay as well? I think colleges should continue their test-optional policies in the future. Standardized tests have become an arbitrary measurement of a student’s preparedness for college. A student’s ability to successfully complete a three-hour multiple-choice test should not be something that determines an admissions decision—rather greater emphasis should be placed on other aspects of the student’s achievements. This is clearly possible as evidenced by this past year’s admissions cycle, so why do colleges hesitate to commit to a long term test-optional plan? 

The benefits that come out of adopting test-optional, or even test-blind admissions, outweigh the negatives. A test-optional policy can eliminate unnecessary costs to families who are already stretched thin by the heavy cost of college applications. Low-income applicants are also the most likely to have high grades but low test scores, so test-optional policies can be especially beneficial to these applicants and can provide a greater chance at a college education. In a study done in 2019, test-optional policies not only increased socioeconomic diversity, but also racial diversity. This led to an increase in black, Latinx, Native American and Pell Grant recipient enrollment. 

Going test-optional also leads to less stress for all applicants. Time usually spent on test preparation and testing can now instead be spent on other parts of the application process. Bowdoin College was the first school to introduce a test-optional policy over fifty years ago. Two years ago thirty percent of students did not submit scores to the school. Bowdoin has reported an increase in applications and enrollment from minorities because of its policy. Schools should keep these policies in the years to come and maybe someday this will lead to test-blind applications for everyone.

– Katya Luchette ’22

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