34. 735. 760. These scores cannot even begin to describe a person.
Instead, they reflect a student’s test-taking ability and instantaneous state of mind on a single day, not their ability to succeed in college and ultimately graduate. Emphasizing someone’s character and not the numbers associated with someone should be the goal of all college admissions offices — including Pomona College.
The importance of test scores was studied this past spring by three college level administrators — Steven T. Syverson, Valerie W. Franks, and William C. Hiss.
The study found that having a test-optional policy increased the number of total applications received and the number of incoming students from underrepresented minorities. Furthermore, those students not submitting scores wound up more likely to graduate in four years than those who did submit, and their high school GPA “had a stronger correlation with college success” than the ACT/SAT.
In many ways, Pomona serves as the prime example for proper admissions standards, with one glaring exception: standardized testing requirements.
Since Pomona has far fewer applications to process compared to its larger counterparts, such as the University of California system and many other schools around the country, it has much greater flexibility to conduct a truly holistic process in its admissions.
Prior to the admissions deadlines, the programs and resources offered by the admissions office represent a clear and committed effort to field applications from a diverse set of backgrounds. From Perspectives on Pomona — a fly-in program for underrepresented students to experience a few days of life at Pomona — to high school visits around the world, high school students have the resources available to discover Pomona.
Despite these efforts toward increasing accessibility, Pomona has yet to forego their testing requirements. Around the United States, more and more colleges have become test-optional or at least test-flexible, initially led by small liberal arts colleges comparable to Pomona: Bowdoin College, Bates College, the College of the Holy Cross, and even neighboring Pitzer College. Just this Monday, Colby College announced dropping its testing requirements.
In its announcement, Colby said standardized testing has a limited ability to “assess a range of intellectual attributes Colby values and that are rewarded in an innovation economy.”
The University of Chicago also recently announced it was dropping its test score requirement, becoming the first “top-ranked” university to do so, according to Forbes.
“Many schools have now gone test-optional, but news that the University of Chicago has done so ratchets the issue to a new level of intensity,” the Forbes article states.
As cliché as it sounds, teaching to the test has become incredibly common, especially in low-income areas, where students cannot afford outside test preparation. These high schools have an incentive to do so, since much of their reputation relies upon the test results of their students. This test prep comes at the expense of crucial instruction time in the classroom.
For a school with as strong a financial aid and accessibility program as Pomona’s, the testing requirement does not match the rest of the message the institution is sending to applicants. Applicants are often told that Pomona values its students for their character, emphasizing that the school judges its students not by their “grades or awards” but by their “meaningful engagement in the fabric of this community.”
By requiring test scores, though, Pomona could be opening its admissions process up to be tainted with the often thousands of dollars spent on test prep.
Moreover, Pomona points to its demographics with pride, as it should, being one of the few small liberals arts colleges that can boast having a majority-minority campus. Dropping the testing requirement would allow them to further embrace that mission.
From offering interviews to having truly personal supplemental essays, Pomona excels in creating an application process that allows students to emphasize their own character. Foregoing its testing requirement would represent another important move toward further increasing accessibility.
Christopher Murdy PO ’22 is an intended international relations major from Lido Beach, NY. He has yet to be convinced West Coast beaches are better.