Lawrence University recently participated in “Defining Promise: Optional Standardized Testing Policies in American College and University Admissions,” a nation-wide study which attempted to analyze the difference between the success rates of students who submitted standardized test scores and those who did not. The study found only “trivial” differences between the two. Though score-submitters performed slightly better in college settings, the minor level of change seems to show encouraging potential in Lawrence’s current test-optional policy across the nation.
Judging potential members of a college community solely by their performance on a high-pressure multiple-choice test conceals unmeasurable traits, like gumption and creativity. Even other purely quantitative measures — such as GPAs or class ranks — are muddied by schools’ varying standards and different grading systems, especially in the case of international applicants, who may be using a completely different grading system. The caliber of a student simply cannot be standardized.
The most important element should be a student’s initiative, be it in their curricular or extracurricular interests. An applicant’s creativity and passion for their work is a crucial piece missing from numerical assessments of student performance. Often, students are left to convey these things themselves through essays and interviews.
University admissions are nuanced and complex processes that attempt to grasp the whole of a student based upon dozens of little parts, and it should be the student’s prerogative to determine what these parts are. Lawrence’s test-optional policy is laudable, but there are many schools that still need to follow suit.