TACOMA, Wash. – University of Puget Sound is making a significant change to its admission requirements by giving applicants an alternative to submitting standardized test scores such as the SAT or ACT.
Those applying to the national liberal arts college beginning with the 2016–17 school year can choose to respond in writing to two short essay questions, in lieu of submitting standardized test scores. The essay questions, based on the extensive research of education authority Professor William Sedlacek, University of Maryland, College Park, are designed to identify noncognitive characteristics that have proved to be strong predictors of success in college.
“Educators have long known that personal characteristics such as leadership ability, determination, and resourcefulness are essential qualities for college success, as well as academic preparation and performance in high school,” said Jenny Rickard, vice president for enrollment at Puget Sound. “There are students who don’t do as well in standardized testing, but who have the motivation and resilience to excel. We want to broaden access for students who we believe will make the most of their college experience, but who might be overlooked by traditional admission practices.”
The change in Puget Sound’s admission practice, effective August 1, 2015, is in line with a growing national trend. Hundreds of universities and colleges, including many prestigious national universities and top-rated liberal arts colleges, have become “test-optional” in recent years.
Puget Sound made the decision after internal research into the best indicators of student success on campus. The factor identified as most predictive of success was high school grade point average (GPA). This was significantly more predictive than standardized test scores.
As a result of that analysis, during the past two admission cycles Puget Sound increased its emphasis on GPA, while reducing emphasis on standardized tests. Last year the college piloted the two essay questions now being offered as an alternative to SAT or ACT test scores. Fall 2014 student applicants were asked if they would voluntarily respond to the two questions so Puget Sound could gather data to inform the implementation of a new admission policy.
Student applicants for fall 2016 who choose to take this alternative route will provide 100-word essays in response to two questions: one about a personal goal and another about a community with which they identify. The essays will be assessed by Puget Sound staff and faculty members trained in noncognitive assessment. The assessors will have no information about the individual candidates themselves.
These essays, in conjunction with the Common Application and essay, teacher and counselor recommendations, and high school transcripts will provide more information to fully evaluate a student’s potential success at Puget Sound.
“We believe that this new policy will help level the playing field for students, not only in decisions on admission, but in allocating merit scholarships,” Rickard said. “We are working locally, nationally, and internationally to expand the diversity of our campus to create a rich learning environment for talented young people from all backgrounds.”
To read more about Puget Sound’s new policy visit: pugetsound.edu/admission/apply/optional-application-questions
To read about test-optional research and trends visit: fairtest.org
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