UChicago Drops the SAT/ACT: What That Really Means

This week the University of Chicago announced they will no longer require the SAT or ACT from U.S. applicants.  So, what does that mean for you?

First, read the whole story. The change in testing policy, coupled with expanded financial aid, is a strategy that the university is employing to build its applicant pool, on the theory that these two moves will prompt even more students to apply. These moves are usually motivated by a desire to broaden access for low income students – backed up by studies that show a correlation between income and test scores – but skeptics are quick to point to the self-serving nature of these kinds of decisions.

UChicago already turns away 93% of the students who apply to the university. Building the applicant pool leads to even more students being turned away. How does this increase access? All it does is allow the university to trumpet even higher application volume and lower admit rates.

Skeptics also point to an interesting phenomenon that occurs at test-optional schools. Students with higher test scores will always submit their scores – top scores do get the attention of admissions officers – but students with modest or low scores will not. With a greater percentage of higher scoring students, most likely not offset by lower scoring students, the university benefits as the average test scores for its incoming class rise. Rising test scores help to drive rankings.

SAT and ACT not required for University of Chicago admissions

UCHICAGO DECISION: WHAT THIS MEANS FOR YOU

Back to you… A good rule of thumb is that test-optional policies are generally more beneficial for students who come from underrepresented backgrounds and communities. Students from affluent families and communities who attend well-resourced public or private schools will be held to a higher standard by admissions officers. James Nandorf, UChicago’s vice president for enrollment essentially confirmed this when he noted that this change was meant to level the playing field for underserved applications. If that’s not you, then remember that top test scores will always strengthen an application, especially when paired with top grades in a rigorous high school program, clear evidence of academic stretch and high level impact outside of class.

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