I remember walking into a slightly too cold, all-white room with aisles of desks to take the ACT my senior year of high school. I stayed up late the night before, testing how quickly I could read and panicking in my bedroom. When I finally sat down to take the test, my eyes were heavy and my heart was pounding.
I have never been good at taking tests, and I’ve talked to numerous people who have said the same thing: “Tests make me anxious,” “I don’t do well under pressure” and “I don’t understand how tests measure my capability.”
While scrolling through Facebook a few days ago, I noticed the University of Kansas—my undergraduate alma mater—shared an article by the Lawrence Journal-World announcing that it would no longer require students to take the ACT or SAT to be admitted.
These new admission standards are scheduled to begin for the incoming class of Spring 2022, and according to the article, the Kansas Board of Regents unanimously approved the changes because the test-free component would allow KU to remain competitive nationally, as many schools have eliminated standardized testing after the pandemic made it more difficult for students to take those tests.
According to The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, also known as FairTest, “more than half of all 4-year colleges and universities will not require applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores for fall 2021 admission,” and 1,240 of the nation’s 2,330 bachelor’s degree-granting institutions are now test-optional.
Columbia College Chicago does not require standardized tests as part of its undergraduate admissions policy.
While reasoning behind the decision varies, a shared link is the desire for a more diverse campus and weeding out unfair advantages. Schools like the University of Chicago—which was the first highly selective college to make standardized testing optional—saw an increase in enrollment of students from underrepresented backgrounds in 2019-2020.
The decision to make the tests optional and the creation of programs like UChicago Empowerment Initiative—which is meant to serve as an enhanced admissions program with more financial aid and programming—indicates the importance of removing obstacles that may interfere with students applying to competitive colleges.
According to a 2019 article from The Washington Post, ACT and SAT scores are often linked to family income, the education level of a student’s mother and race.
Alongside the high cost of attending college, there are a number of costs associated with test prep, testing and visiting potential colleges before deciding on a school. According to the College Board, it costs $52 to take the SAT, or $68 to take the SAT with essay, and the ACT costs $55 or $70 with the writing test fee, according to ACT.org. Some students also take the test more than once to improve their scores.
With ACT and SAT testing admission requirements proving to be elitist, there is also the question of whether a test can prove academic capability. Among my high school friend group, there were a number of people nervous to share their test scores, as they were afraid their score meant they were incompetent or unlikely to do well in college.
Because I did not receive a remarkable ACT score, I remember keeping the score to myself. But as a student who has a Bachelor of Arts in English and is less than two months away from receiving a Master of Fine Arts in creative nonfiction writing, I think my personal achievements speak louder than a test score.
I was fortunate enough to have the ability to take the ACT more than once and score high enough to attend a college like KU. However, this is a privilege not everyone has, and it should not be a requirement to get into college.
With the elimination of obstacles—such as the cost of test prep, testing and getting to a testing site—there is room for a more diverse and non-testing-centric campus. Tests should be given to examine someone’s knowledge and growth, not to prove whether they are capable of getting into college.