Standardized test scores carrying less weight, says report on college admissions

This year’s State of College Admission report from the National Association For College Admission Counseling (NACAC) indicates that, while test scores remain a top factor in admissions decisions, they have increasingly less influence. Fifty-two percent of four-year U.S. colleges surveyed by NACAC said test scores had “considerable influence” in admissions decisions, down from 59 percent in 2007 and 54 percent in 2017.

Inside Higher Ed notes that the decrease may reflect a broader shift in colleges’ thinking about “the value of standardized admissions tests,” especially following the University of Chicago’s recent decision to go test optional. Last month, several hundred college leaders discussed the merits of going test-optional at the NACAC annual conference.

NACAC’s analysis also revealed that grades have become more important, with 81 percent in this year’s survey saying they held “considerable importance,” compared with 52 percent in 2007.

Demonstrated interest a top factor—but does it favor wealthier applicants?

Demonstrated interest, meanwhile, was the only nonacademic factor among the top eight cited by colleges. Among surveyed colleges, 15.5 percent and 21.4 percent said that demonstrated interest had considerable and moderate influence, respectively.

That finding coincided with an increase in the popularity of early decision and early action options between 2016 and 2017, with colleges reporting a 5 percent and 10 percent increase in students admitted through early decision and early action, respectively.

Observers, however, have noted that, early admission applications and other common demonstrations of interest, such as college site visits, may be more feasible for applicants with a certain level of financial security. For example, a wealthier student would have the financial freedom to fly out to prospective schools or commit to a college in advance regardless of the financial aid package.

Exploring the influence of race, ethnicity, and first-gen status

Inside Higher Ed also calls attention to the personal characteristics influencing admissions decisions, noting that “this year’s report comes out amid a renewed national debate, prompted by the lawsuit against Harvard University, over the consideration of race and ethnicity in admissions.” In surveying schools about seven student characteristics, NACAC found that a greater percentage of respondents cited first-generation status as having “considerable influence” on admissions decisions than race/ethnicity (4.2 percent and 2.4 percent, respectively).

Topics in this story
, ,

Next Up

How can colleges confront racism on campus?

A case study published by the American Council on Education documents a way forward for college campuses responding to and recovering from racial incidents.