No ‘test-optional’ admission policy at St. Thomas

DePaul University recently announced it will use a “test-optional” submission policy for freshman admission starting in fall 2012, but St. Thomas will not follow suit.

(shawncampbell/Creative Commons)
Students applying to DePaul University have the option to answer essay questions instead of submitting ACT or SAT scores next fall, but St. Thomas will still require test scores. (shawncampbell/Creative Commons)

DePaul announced that applicants will be able to either submit ACT or SAT scores, or answer open-ended essay questions. Students are still encouraged to submit test scores, but those who do not will be judged on their high school records in college preparatory courses and on the essay questions, which are “designed to reveal proven predictors of success,” according to the university.

Kris Roach, director of admissions and financial aid at St. Thomas, said requiring applicants to submit an ACT or SAT score as part of the admission process is in the student’s best interest.

“We believe that the ACT and SAT are important pieces of information when making a holistic admission decision,” Roach said. “Standardized test scores are the only common denominator colleges have to evaluate students.”

Roach said because many high schools evaluate students differently, colleges have depended more on ACT and SAT scores in recent years than other measures of potential students, such as grades.

“Grade inflation is alive and well in many high schools, and we find that the GPA is a less reliable measure of preparation than it used to be,” Roach said. “The test scores allow us to consider the student’s overall academic preparation for the rigors of a St. Thomas education.”

Senior Breanna Alston said she is not convinced that standardized testing is the best way to evaluate a student.

“For me, personally, I don’t believe in those standardized tests,” Alston said. “I think admitting someone based on personal responses might be a good indicator of [his or her] goals.“

Roach said looking at ACT and SAT scores is important to determine if an applicant is academically prepared for admission or for scholarship money.

“St. Thomas awards its new incoming first-year students merit-based scholarships based on the student’s academic credentials and the contributions the student has made to [his or her] school and community,” Roach said. “Academic credentials include grade point average, rank in class, ACT and SAT scores and academic achievements and honors that have been earned.”

Having students’ test scores also helps the university compete against other institutions, Roach said.

“Schools are routinely evaluated on their enrolled student profile,” Roach said. “Ranking systems, [such as] the U.S. News and World Report, consider a number of factors when determining the best colleges in the region or country. Student profile is one of those factors, among many.”

But some students said the university should consider the test-optional admission policy.

“I’m really bad at standardized testing, but I’m a really hard worker, so having my ACT score, which wasn’t that good, be an indicator of my scholarship is kind of hard,” junior Kate Berkbigler said. “Maybe both options would work, because you have to know where the kid is at to admit them but then also know their personal goals.”

Sophomore Matt Hooley also said students should be able to choose.

“I feel like students should have the option to submit if they want, if they feel that the tests could up their chances,” Hooley said. “But if they feel that they can express themselves and show how good of a student they are just through their essay, then they should be able to do that, too.”

Roach said after looking at more than 5,300 applications for fall 2011, just more than 4,000 were admitted.

“Our goal is to enroll 1,350 new first-year students, which is less than this year’s record-setting class,” Roach said.

Cynthia Johnson can be reached at