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Test-optional? How Indiana students are choosing to submit their scores to colleges

With more colleges offering test-optional submissions of SAT or ACT scores

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In a landscape where the path to higher education is shifting, Indiana’s students are making pivotal choices that could shape their academic futures.

The COVID-19 pandemic caused in-person testing to be nearly impossible. Even so, the decline of SAT and ACT requirements in college admissions began prior to the pandemic.

National reports have long indicated that mandating SAT and ACT scores exacerbates educational access disparities, adding further hurdles for minority and marginalized groups pursuing higher education.

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“I still think a lot of those tests are racially biased. Granted, I graduated in 1992, so it’s been some time ago. During my experience then, some of those questions weren’t relevant to me. So, being test optional evens the playing field a little bit,” said Al Smith co-host of the podcast “Lights! Camera! College!

Al Smith enlisted the expertise of his daughter, high school senior Lynette Smith, to provide support to fellow seniors going through the college application process as a co-host of the podcast.

Knowing that it can be a daunting and complex experience for high school seniors, Al Smith recognized the need for guidance. The premiere podcast episode of “Lights! Camera! College!” discussed the Common App.

Test-optional SAT/ACT submissions

“I don’t think it accurately represents what you’re capable of. I want to show that I’m creative; I’m a leader while managing sports in school; I’m vice president of a club at my school, and I just want to show that I’m multifaceted,” said Lynette Smith who has already applied to IU Bloomington.

“I’m not submitting my scores for the test optional schools. I think that I’m set if I don’t send my scores, and they’re kind of average. There’s nothing special about them.”
Lynette Smith said she has talked to other students who expressed that because some colleges give them that option, there is less pressure on the process.

Michael Curt is currently a high school senior planning to apply to Indiana colleges.
He feels like his test scores will only add to his application along with the list of his extracurricular activities.

“I’m submitting for good measure. I just know for me personally, I would have the peace of mind knowing that I worked hard for both the academics and the activities. To me, that just makes you a better applicant,” said Curt.

He plans to apply to Ball State, IUPUI, Indiana State, Purdue and Butler; each school has its own admission requirements for testing.

Schools offering test-optional submission

Butler University stands firm in its commitment to offering a test optional application.
In a statement to the Indianapolis Recorder, Buter University spokesperson Mark Apple said:

Butler University has long employed a holistic review admission process focused on the intellectual, social, and emotional development of an applicant.

This individual review process takes into account a large number of factors including a curriculum assessment, GPAs, extracurricular activities, recommendations, selected area of study, work history, pre-professional interest(s), and essays that provide insight into students’ values and life experiences.

First-year and transfer students can apply to Butler with or without standardized test scores such as the SAT and the ACT. 

Choosing not to submit a test score doesn’t negatively impact a student’s application, but students have the option of submitting test scores if they think it improves their chances for admission.

Mark Apple, Butler University

In 2022, Purdue University reversed its test-optional policy that was originally offered during the pandemic.

Students looking to apply for 2024 admission are required to provide either their SAT or ACT scores.

“The evidence is clear that test scores provide essential information in a comprehensive admissions evaluation that enables us to ensure the optimal chance of success for each admitted student,” said Purdue Vice Provost for Enrollment Management Kris Wong Davis last year on the reversal.

At the time of test-optional applications, the school recommended but did not require test scores. Still, nearly three-quarters of applicants provided scores.

The Indiana Commission for Higher Education provides resources for Hoosier families regarding college application processes.

The Indiana Pre-Admission: Your path to College initiative offers students at 327 high schools pre-admission into participating colleges based on their GPA and/or SAT scores.

The Commission hopes the program will help address the state’s declining college-going rate. That rate is currently 53% and was steadily declining before the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“We have criteria up front to pre-match them, but then students will take their next step to apply. They will submit their information to the school. We are not sharing the SAT and GPA information with institutions, so the students will be able to make the choice,” said Senior Associate Commissioner and Chief Program Officer Michelle Ashcraft.

Contact staff writer Jade Jackson at (317) 762-7853 or by email JadeJ@IndyRecorder.com. Follow her on Twitter @IAMJADEJACKSON

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  1. “I still think a lot of those tests are racially biased.” We are all entitled to having false beliefs. Some people believe the world is flat. But believing false beliefs doesn’t make false beliefs true. The tests are not racially biased. That they increase predicting success in college is one of the most established relationships in all of the social sciences. This has, literally, been continuously demonstrated over the course of decades covering millions of students. There are only two studies that argue to the contrary — both are biased and poorly constructed, and both still find that SAT/ACT scores slightly increase prediction. Why do the SAT/ACT help predict success in college? Because they test students on the fundamentals of grammar, mathematics, and reading. We abandon standards to our peril.

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