Wake Forest makes standardized tests optional in admissions

Beginning with the freshman class of 2009, Wake Forest University will make college entrance examinations optional for admission.   Wake Forest will become the only top 30 national university with a test-optional policy.

Students, who in the past were required to submit either the SAT or ACT as part of their applications, can decide if they want their standardized test scores to be considered.

“By making the SAT and ACT optional, we hope to broaden the applicant pool and increase access at Wake Forest for groups of students who are currently underrepresented at selective universities,” said Martha Allman, director of admissions at Wake Forest.

High school curriculum and classroom performance combined with the student’s writing ability, extracurricular activities and evidence of character and talent will remain the most important criteria for admission.

“Students may still submit SAT or ACT scores for admission if they choose,” said Allman.

“If, however, they feel that the score does not accurately reflect their academic abilities, and they don’t want it included in their application materials, they now have that option.”

As a result of this new policy, admissions officials hope talented and motivated students with more modest test scores but excellent high school records will be encouraged to apply.

Many liberal arts colleges have made the shift to a test-optional policy.  Wake Forest is the only university ranked among the top 30 national universities by U.S. News and World Report with such a policy.

The decision was made after a careful consideration of recent research done at various universities.

“While many top-tier universities are increasing their reliance on standardized testing in the admissions process,  recent research suggests that standardized tests are not valuable predictors of college success,” said Wake Forest Provost Jill Tiefenthaler, the university’s chief academic officer whose office oversees admissions.

Some studies indicate performance on the SAT is closely linked to family income and education level, while others suggest a possible testing bias against certain minority students.

Joseph Soares, associate professor of sociology at Wake Forest and author of “The Power of Privilege:  Yale and America’s Elite Colleges,” has been an important contributor to the national conversation on college admissions.

“Dr. Soares presents a compelling argument that reliance on the SAT and other standardized tests for admission is a major barrier to access for many worthy students,” Tiefenthaler said.  “By taking this step at Wake Forest, we want to remove that barrier.”

This year, Wake Forest received more than 9,000 applications and expects to enroll about 1,200 freshmen this fall.

“Wake Forest has always been characterized by personal attention in the admissions process and in the classroom,” Allman said.  “Removing the test requirement will demonstrate emphatically that we value individual academic achievement and initiative as well as talent and character above standardized testing.”

As part of this change in policy, the admissions office will strongly encourage personal interviews.  Interviews will be conducted on campus by admissions officers and to a limited extent by trained Wake Forest alumni.

“In the world of college admissions, there is increasing concern about how we make decisions and how we evaluate students,” Allman said.  “We are enthusiastic about making a change that moves the admissions process in what we believe to be the right direction.”

Like other universities, Wake Forest is asked to provide standardized test score data to outside agencies.   For this data to be accurate, Wake Forest will ask students who chose not to submit scores during the admissions process to provide them after they are accepted and before they enroll at Wake Forest.

Categories: Admissions