Survey Affirms Pitzer Policy Not to Require Standardized Tests

While the number of high school students who take the SAT and ACT is on the rise—over 1.5 million students took each test last year—more and more colleges are no longer requiring their applicants to report their test scores; over 800 of approximately 3,000 four-year colleges do not require test scores from at least some their applicants, according to a Feb. 18 NPR article.

This practice is not new for Pitzer College, which in 2004 made reporting test scores optional for applicants in the top 10 percent of their class or with a minimum GPA of 3.5. The college was the first on the West Coast to stop requiring standardized test scores from its applicants, according to Angel Perez, vice president and dean of admission and financial aid at Pitzer. 

Zoe Elkin PZ ’15 did not submit a test score with her application. 

“I think it’s a really limited way to view someone,” Elkin said.

For many students, the option not to submit a test score is one of the reasons they apply to Pitzer.

“It was major, primarily because I’ve always been a good student, but never been one for standardized tests,” Elkin said. 

William Hiss, the former dean of admissions at Bates College, reported in a study released this month that students who do not submit standardized test scores perform just as well in college classes as those who do.

Elkin said that her observations at Pitzer have been consistent with Hiss’ conclusions. 

“It doesn’t make a difference,” she said. “Whoever’s here is here.”

Maria Krol-Sinclair PZ ’15 said that students may have misconceptions about standardized tests.

“People think that the SAT and these kinds of tests are very objective, but there are lot of hidden discrepancies and hidden biases in them that we don’t really think about,” she said.

Elkin, for example, expressed concern that low performances on standardized tests often result from lack of tutoring, which can be very expensive.

“Students who don’t have that academic help outside of school—that’s really unfortunate,” Elkin said. “So in a sense, [these tests] are kind of classist.”

Since making the inclusion of standardized test scores on applications optional, Pitzer has seen an 8 percent increase in the GPA of its student body, as well as a 58 percent increase in students of color. The class of 2017 is the college’s most diverse class to date.

Perez said that he supports the policy in part based on personal experience. 

“I feel like I too am a living example,” Perez said. “I’m almost done with a Ph.D. … Clearly, if you had looked at my SAT scores in 1989, you would never have predicted my trajectory because those scores basically say, ‘This guy doesn’t have the skill set to compete at that level.’ My grades said something different.”

Perez said that the admissions process takes longer without the requirement of standardized test scores.

“I would say that our process is the most involved, personalized, [and] time-consuming of any other place that I’ve worked,” Perez said. 

SAT and ACT scores are not good measures of students’ ability to succeed in college, according to Elkin.  

“It’s a good way to screen people,” she said. However, she noted that “they only measure a very limited set of skills.”

Pitzer continues to accept standardized test scores from students who want to submit them, according to Perez. 

“[We] didn’t want to isolate those students who took the exam, did really well on the exam, and wanted it to count,” he said.

Krol-Sinclair took the SAT at her high school and did well, and she said that her college counselor encouraged her to submit her scores to Pitzer. However, she agreed with Pitzer’s test-optional policy.

“There are so many different ways of being intelligent,” she said. “They think about education in a different way from most liberal arts schools.” 

According to the website of the College Board, which owns and develops the SAT, the test is meant to “prepare for a successful transition to college.” However, the admissions staff at Pitzer does not believe that standardized tests indicate how well students will transition.

“What we found was that there wasn’t direct correlation between academic success at Pitzer and the SAT,” Perez said. 

According to Krol-Sinclair, “Pitzer is a socially responsible and socially conscious school,” which is why it does not require the SAT or ACT.

The other Claremont Colleges require either an SAT or an ACT score from every applicant. 

Frances Nan PO ’12, a Pomona College admissions officer, said that Pomona does not overly emphasize standardized test scores. 

“It’s just one piece of the application process,” she said. 

Instead, Pomona factors students’ scores into the admissions process, contextualizing it with their socioeconomic backgrounds and race, among other components of their applications.

Some students also think that standardized test scores can be useful components of college applications. 

“I suppose it would depend on the person, but I’d imagine that for the most part, people who did well on the SAT are ready for college,” Steven Glick PO ’17 said. “People who do badly aren’t necessarily unprepared, but I do think that people who do well tend to be fine in college.”

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