A Farewell to the Testing-Industrial-Complex


Wesleyan University will no longer require the ACT or the SAT in admissions criteria. Below is the announcement from The Wesleyan Connection:

Both the SAT and the ACT tests will be optional for high school applicants to Wesleyan University starting next fall, President Michael S. Roth announced this week.

The tests, given annually to about three million students in 170 countries, have been part of the Wesleyan admissions process for many years. Wesleyan has required either the SAT with two subject tests, or the ACT. Now the university joins several hundred institutions, including many of its peer colleges, in making the tests optional.

While students’ academic records will continue to be most important in Wesleyan’s admissions decisions, as they always have, applicants may choose whether or not to submit test scores.

“We’ve always been most concerned about the day-to-day work of our applicants, in a rigorous academic program,” said Nancy Hargrave Meislahn, Wesleyan’s dean of admission and financial aid. “This option provides students more control over their applications, how best to present themselves to the admission committee.”

University administrators are unconvinced that the 88-year-old exam—or the “younger” ACT –always accurately reflects college potential, and believe that it can unfairly advantage privileged applicants.

“We’re skeptical about the value of the SAT in predicting college success,” Roth said. “Scores don’t necessarily add much to student applications; what’s more, we believe they can skew the advantage toward students from privileged backgrounds, or those who can afford test prep.”

Meislahn cited compelling new research from 33 colleges and universities with score-optional policies that finds little difference in academic success between those who submit scores and those who don’t. Score-optional schools also have seen a more racially and socio-economically diverse pool of candidates.

“Wesleyan is committed to diversity and inclusion,” she said. “We’re actively recruiting students from under-served communities, students of color and first-generation scholars. We believe that making test scores optional will provide more access.”

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17 thoughts on “A Farewell to the Testing-Industrial-Complex

  1. Xandra

    “Wesleyan is committed to diversity and inclusion,” she said. “We’re actively recruiting students from under-served communities, students of color and first-generation scholars. We believe that making test scores optional will provide more access.”

    If Wesleyan is so committed to these principles, why does our admission office openly financially discriminate against its applicants?

  2. alum

    Bowdoin, Middlebury, and Smith are the peer schools Wesleyan is referring to, FYI

  3. A Farewell to "Arms"

    A test should be a test of your knowledge and the things you have learned throughout the course of your studies. While the concept of the ACT, SAT, and other standardized tests sound good in concept, in practice they have become for many people a test of the student’s ability to beat the question and get the answer without necessarily thinking or understanding why the answer is what it is. They fail to show what students actually know and have actually learned, which is why I don’t think that the shift away from SAT/ACT scores is a good thing. Perhaps a student’s transcript is an inaccurate reflection of that student’s true “knowledge” because not all schools and classes are equal in terms of difficulty, standards, etc. However, I still think that, combined with letters of recommendation from teachers who know the students and know the students’ individual strengths, weaknesses, and overall potential, that they are a far better indicator of a student’s academic ability than a three hour standardized test will ever be. My standardized test scores did not “match” the grades that I got on my transcript. They weren’t bad, though they didn’t match where a lot of people would expect them to be looking at the grades on my transcript. Does that mean I’m dumb and learned nothing in high school? No. My scores didn’t show anything about what I actually learned in high school. They didn’t show anything about the way I think as an individual. They really didn’t show anything about me other than the fact that I am not a stellar test taker. I came here and have done extremely well despite my SAT scores not being in Wesleyan’s “range.” And I know that there are many people both here and at other schools in very similar positions. That’s all I have to say.

  4. Human

    wesleyan just got a lot less meritocratic. High school GPA and extracurriculars are much more the product of where you’re from rather than how smart you are. Not to say the SATs are close to perfect but at least they’re the same for everyone who takes them.

    1. kitab

      while I agree that other admissions factors are subjective, I’m not sure that the SATs can be considered “the same for everyone who takes them.” While the questions are the same for a given test cycle, test prep, as the article mentions, can unfairly favor students from privileged backgrounds, not to mention the cost barriers to taking the test multiple times.

      I’d be interested to see the research the school cites re: the diversity of applicant pools.

        1. Human

          that’s just one article of course but if you have a look around there seems to be a convergence in the literature that sat prep doesn’t do too much

          1. humanoid

            Also keep in mind that admissions counselors know that different schools/areas yield different gpas/what have you. It’s already a large part of their job to assess a candidate with consideration to what resources they’ve had and challenges faced

          2. alien

            i got a 2100 the first time i took it. After my intensive test prep, I got a 2330. SAT prep doesn’t help? I’m calling bullshit, maybe some courses are bad and unhelpful but some definitely make a huge difference for a lot of people. And the courses that work are often extremely expensive. While the average SAT course may or may not be helpful, those catered towards the rich (who can already take the tests multiple times without meaningful financial penalty) are game changers.

          3. skeptical of prep

            I got a 1940 the first time I took it and a 2350 the second time with no prep in between. The tests vary a lot each time. Don’t think you can necessarily chalk your increase up to only the prep though it could have been one of several factors

    2. firstgenstudent

      While more privileged people do better on the SATs, the SATs are still more fair than other measures. Wealthier people have a lot more options for high school extracurriculars, and race/gender affects GPA a lot more directly than SAT score — a minority may perform poorly on the SAT due to a disadvantaged life, but when it comes to GPA they’ll have racist/sexist teachers actively discriminating against them even if they do as well as everyone else, in addition to having to overcome their disadvantages.

  5. Gabe

    A question: How will eliminating the SAT/ACT from applications impact the application process for the school? Wesleyan hasn’t really had its own application or essays, in addition to the Common App—will that now change, and how?

    1. InfoStuff

      1. Wesleyan started requiring a supplement starting this year. It was a pretty basic supplement, but it’s still a way to distinguish candidates.

      2. SAT/ACTs aren’t typically all that regarded by admissions counselors anyway–aside from seeing if an applicant’s scores are within Wesleyan’s range, admissions officers don’t really put much stock in them. And especially since our admissions process is “holistic”, applicants whose scores don’t reach this threshold are still looked at anyway. So basically, the SAT/ACT wasn’t really doing too much.

      1. Whoa

        Wait, literally part of the reason I’m even at Wes is because there was no supplement. oh well.

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