Rockhurst University Joins Growing List of American Colleges and Universities Going ‘Test Optional’

Monday, July 15, 2019
Student in classroom

This week Rockhurst University joins a growing number of its peers in higher education by moving away from an emphasis on standardized test scores and instead adopting a “test optional” standard for applicants.

In the past, ACT and SAT test scores have been looked at as one of the major factors in determining college readiness. As a result, success on those tests has taken on increased significance for prospective college students and spawned a host of test preparation services and study aides. But heavy emphasis on standardized tests doesn’t always fully take into account a student’s ability to afford resources such as preparation services or their competency outside of the single-session, standardized testing environment. Furthermore, standardized tests themselves have been accused of reinforcing inherent biases.

The test optional guidelines adopted by Rockhurst University will allow consideration of a wide range of factors in making enrollment decisions, notably performance in core subjects like math, science and English. Students could in some cases still be asked to submit ACT/SAT results, and students still have the option to submit their results as part of their application.

But Micaela Lenhart, director of undergraduate admissions, said moving away from standardized test scores allows the University to potentially get to know new students, in new ways, as part of the admissions process.

“'One of the aspects of this change that I’m most excited about is the access and opportunity this will provide for some highly-qualified students who might have thought attending Rockhurst wasn't a possibility for them,” she said.

It does not mean admissions standards will become less competitive, Lenhart said, nor will academic rigor once students arrive at the University. However, having a broader range of factors to consider means the University can make more informed decisions when it comes to gauging student readiness, predicting college success, and identifying students with unique academic talents that are not evident through test scores, she said.

With the move to test optional admissions, Rockhurst University joins a growing list of institutions, including 10 of the 27 Jesuit institutions nationwide and prestigious research institutions such as the University of Chicago. A 2018 study of the impact of test optional policies found that institutions adopting the approach improved access and promoted inclusion for underrepresented students, and graduation rates among test score non-submitters equal to or slightly higher than their peers who submitted scores.