Opinion: New test-optional policy is misguided


Our lives would all be easier if we could hide the less impressive parts of ourselves, but doing so is unfair to others.
Illustration by Mitchell Kraus

MITCHELL KRAUS Editor-in-Chief

Lindenwood has adopted a “test-optional” policy, meaning that, beginning with the 2019 class, applicants may choose whether the university will consider their ACT or SAT scores during the admissions process. 

Admitted students will still be required to submit their test scores for “placement, advising and reporting purposes,” according to the university’s website. Homeschooled and international students are excluded from the new policy; they must report their test scores for admission.

Many colleges, including Lindenwood, use a “holistic” approach to admission where a candidate’s grades and scores are considered alongside their extracurricular activities. 

Admission is a competition. Any given university does not have unlimited spots for students, and therefore must decide who is in and who is out. To allow students to opt out of one part of a holistic admissions process goes against the nature of the competition. 

Testing is an academic skill and deserves to be valued.

In the announcement, Vice President of Enrollment Management Terry Whittum was quoted saying, “Test-optional encourages students for whom a test score may not accurately reflect their academic potential to apply knowing that their performance in high school, not necessarily a test one Saturday morning, is what matters most to our admission committee.”

Basing admission on only high school performance would be ideal in a world where all high schools are the same. However, there is a massive disparity in the quality of American high schools. How is an admissions committee supposed to compare an applicant from a low-performing high school to an applicant who went to a rigorous high school in a different area, especially when the U.S. has weak national education standards?

Why not just have them take the same test?

While researching for this piece, I looked up my own data set from high school and compared it to national averages:

  • GPA: 85th percentile 
  • ACT: 95th percentile 
  • SAT: 92nd percentile* 

Just looking at that information, it is obvious that leaving my GPA out of my data set makes me look better as a student. Taking it out would also be an inaccurate representation of myself.

People are complicated. When considering new students, admissions committees should consider the rounded individual, taking the bad with the good and render a decision based on all available data. If there are a limited number of spots for students, it is unfair to allow applicants to hide poor test scores in an effort to gain entrance. 

*Author’s note: I took the SAT in 2013, before it underwent a extensive redesign in 2016.