Test-Optional admission -bkm -dlh

Beth McHenry

Following Lawrence’s official announcement to adopt a test-optional admissions policy two weeks ago, Dean of Admissions Steve Syverson finds himself tackling the first hurdle *********– the growing mountain of positive and negative attention from the media, high school counselors, Lawrence alumni, and the post-secondary education community.
Educators, counselors, and parents have been questioning standardized testing for the past several years, so it is no surprise that Lawrence’s decision to drop SAT/ACT test score submission from admission requirements has attracted local and national attention.
Syverson and Lawrence’s decision appeared on three local radio stations ********– WOSH Oshkosh, WHBY Appleton, and WTAQ Green Bay *********– as well three television spots with NBC 26, Fox 11, and PBS. Appleton’s *******Post-Crescent****** and the ******Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel****** each printed an article, and Syverson says that several smaller publications printed stories off the press release.
Of course, a visit from a film crew from PBS’s “The NewsHour with Jim Lehrer” was the media highlight for Lawrence. A three-person crew, including award-winning correspondent Elizabeth Brackett, visited Lawrence shortly before the announcement was released. The crew filmed scenes from campus, an interview with Syverson, and footage from Assistant Professor Dave Hall’s biochemistry lab. The clip will be airing during the week of March 12 as a part of a larger feature on standardized testing and the new SAT format.
Currently, the decision to drop test requirements has met with an overwhelmingly positive response from the high school counselors, college-level educators, and alumni. In fact, the few negative responses have come solely from alumni. Says Syverson, “There has been no negative response from anyone who is within education, either high school or college education.”
Besides the initial press release, Syverson posted a general statement on the National Association for College Admission Counseling listserv, a server that reaches over 4,000 high school counselors and college admissions officers. Syverson has received approximately 60 e-mails in response to this posting from high school counselors, all positive.
Responses to the NACAC listserv range from a simple, “Bravo!” or “Thank you!” ********– and even “You guys rock!” ********– to enthusiastic requests for information about Lawrence or a visit from a Lawrence representative. Several other counselors requested permission to reprint and distribute to parents or colleagues Syverson’s statement on Lawrence’s decision.
The decision certainly seems to have already affected many counselors’ impressions of Lawrence in a tangible way. One counselor professed, “While I know very little about your university, the thoughtfulness of your decision has piqued my interest. If you are ever in North Carolina, we would love to have you visit.”
Responses from alumni have been more mixed. Many alumni are concerned that the new admissions policy will undermine the credibility of a Lawrence education for past, present, and future Lawrence graduates. Another concern from alumni and faculty is that students who do not take the SAT or ACT for admission to Lawrence will not be driven to take the testing required for studies after they graduate, such as graduate school, medical school, and law school.
Other Lawrence alumni applaud the decision enthusiastically. Syverson has already received numerous e-mails, phone calls and letters from alumni who are “as proud as peacock” of their alma mater.
Syverson is currently in the process of responding to all negative feedback individually in hopes of convincing alumni of the advantages of the decision. He believes that those who most oppose the new policy are those who do not understand the factors involved and the positive results observed in institutions like Bates College.
Syverson still has high hopes for the effects of Lawrence’s policy change. St Lawrence University in New York announced their switch to test-optional admission on the Monday following Lawrence University’s announcement and several other universities have expressed an interest in joining the trend.
After the admissions office sifts through the responses to the admissions change, the task of presenting the new policy to high schools, alumni, and students continues. According to Syverson, they plan to send a special mailing to all high schools on Lawrence’s mailing list outlining the changes. The admissions office also needs to develop the best way to present the new system to applicants. Hopefully test-optional admission will afford prospective students a way to express their personal achievements through multiple methods, not just test scores.
Says Syverson, “Part of the challenge now is to figure out how we convey this to people as part of a broader message. What we’re really trying to do is to show that this is consistent with what your experience at Lawrence University will be.