Somewhere in the neighborhood of 1,100 colleges were already test optional before the COVID 19 virus created a pandemic. A handful of colleges were typically added to that total each year. We could all see the trend but it was moving as slowly as paint dries. Enter a highly contagious virus that shuts down testing centers across the nation and suddenly test scores are not available for the next round of college applications. If scores on the exam are the first or second highest priority item in the application, some adjustments must be made. The adjustment for many colleges is to jump into the test optional pool for a swim. Some colleges are only committing to two semesters without the requirement of test scores while others have stated the move is permanent.
So, what is the reason that test scores have remained such a prevalent part of the application for most colleges? One of the primary arguments is that it allows colleges to evaluate students that come from very different backgrounds by comparing their performance on a similar evaluation. Another is that the exams score allows the college to predict future academic success of the student. The silent and most compelling component that explains why college entrance exams hold a premier place in the college application process is that testing has become a billion dollar industry. The printed and online study materials, practice exams, private tutors and tutoring classes along with the expense of registering for the exam generate huge sums of money. How many students do you believe would put themselves through the anguish of preparing and sitting for these exams if they were no longer required. Maybe the roughly three percent of students who score in the 1500 range, but few others would welcome those tasks.
The names of the first 17 colleges to drop the requirement for exam scores since test date began being cancelled have substantial name recognition. Before the application season is over, I expect the number of test optional institutions will have grown significantly. A few colleges are moving beyond going test optional by adjusting application deadlines, delaying or decreasing deposit requirements and accepting unofficial transcripts for admission. We have all been clamoring for change. It has finally come in the form of a pandemic.