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WU extends test-optional policy through fall 2024

Sumers Welcome Center, which is home to the undergraduate admissions office, on a recent afternoon. (Photo by Nathan Springman | Student Life)

Washington University extended its test-optional policy for all freshman and transfer applicants to the classes of 2027 and 2028, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions announced on its website, Jan. 24.

Under this policy, students can decide whether or not to submit their standardized testing scores as part of their applications.

The University first went test-optional two years ago, for applicants to the class of 2025. Last year, after a 20% increase in applications that cycle, a spike also experienced by many peer institutions who went test-optional, the University extended its policy for the class of 2026.

Vice Provost for Admissions and Financial Aid Ronné Turner told Student Life that the Office of Admissions is using these test optional cycles to study the “impact of standardized testing to predict student success in college.”

“We’ve never had the opportunity to study the impact of our testing policy with students who were admitted without testing,” Turner said.

The University’s latest move comes at a time when many other American universities are making similar extensions. last december, Harvard announced that it would extend its test optional policy for four years.

Turner said that her team looked at other peer institutions and their actions as Admissions made its decision about test optionality. “We’re paying attention to the higher education landscape and what other institutions are doing as it relates to testing,” she said.

This recent trend of many major colleges and universities going test optional has pushed testing companies to change their own policies. The College Board announced on Jan. 25 that the SAT will soon become exclusively computer-based and will be reduced from three to two hours in length.

During the University’s first test-optional admissions cycle in 2020-2021, 59% of applicants to the University submitted test scores. While the numbers are not publicly available for the ongoing 2021-2022 cycle, Turner said that the percentage of applicants who submitted scores was a few points lower.

Freshman Kiran Bhat, who submitted scores despite applying in a test-optional cycle, says that he thought submitting scores would be a good idea and says he sees the value in standardized tests.

“I think tests are one of the better indicators of how well a student will do in college and of their academic ability,” said Bhat. “Also, a lot of students from varying socioeconomic backgrounds don’t necessarily have the same access to extracurriculars and other opportunities, but they are more likely to have access to a [standardized] test.”

Admissions currently recommends on their website that those who “feel their scores reflect their abilities” should submit their scores. Turner added that she recommends every applicant at least sit for either the SAT or ACT, if it is available to them and then decide whether to submit scores.

“The advice I was given when applying to colleges was that [if my scores were] around the 50th percentile of past years’ scores, that was good enough for me,” said freshman Jacob Song, who also submitted scores despite applying in a test-optional cycle.

“I wouldn’t do away with [standardized] tests,” Bhat said. “But, there are definitely ways to improve them… especially since you have to pay to take these tests. But as long as they’re easily accessible, I think they’re a good thing.”

Turner said that she does not know the probability of Admissions making another extension or going permanently test optional, but said that the University administration has given Admissions the permission to extend test optionality for the next two years.

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