Letter to the Editor: Columbia College Chicago is going test-free

By Derek Brinkley, Assistant Vice President of Undergraduate Admissions

Columbia College Chicago will officially be test-free for the class entering in Fall 2022 and beyond. In short: Test scores will play no role in the college’s determination of a student’s admissibility, or in awarding merit-based scholarships.

A test requirement will continue to apply to international students who cannot demonstrate English proficiency through their coursework, and the college will continue to grant college credit for qualifying scores on Advanced Placement, International Baccalaureate, and CLEP tests. Columbia will not ask students for their results from the ACT or the SAT, and those scores will not be accepted if submitted.

As part of our mission-driven commitment to access and equity, Columbia has never required standardized test results for admission. Students have always had the option to share (or withhold without penalty) their SAT or ACT scores. However, recent reflection and examination of our mission in the context of our institution-wide work to become anti-racist has led us to conclude that being “test optional” is no longer sufficient.

The standardized tests that many colleges have come to rely on have a deep history of bias. This bias manifests itself in the separation between families who do and do not have access to tutoring and preparatory coaching for the exams, as well as in the content of the exams themselves.

As a result, they have often served to exclude BIPOC and other underrepresented students from the professional opportunities and socioeconomic advancement afforded by higher education. Further, we know from years of reviewing applications and getting to know our students that these tests don’t tell us anything important about their ability to succeed at Columbia.

Once Columbia’s 2022 application opens in August, we hope students will apply with the assurance that our staff will conduct a holistic review focused on in-class academic performance, creative work samples, potential to contribute to our campus community, and our expectations of a student’s success beyond graduation.