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Saint Mary’s enacts test optional policy

| Thursday, September 13, 2018

As Saint Mary’s students settle into the first semester of the 2018-19 academic year, high school students begin the admissions process for colleges and universities around the country. Generally, applications require a transcript, essay and ACT or SAT test score. This year Saint Mary’s is adapting its application process, according to its website, to “engage all students, no matter their background.”

“Saint Mary’s has been studying the issue for over 10 years,” director of admission Sarah Dvorak said. “For us, the greatest predictor of success at the College is the high school GPA combined with the strength of the coursework and not the standardized test results. In addition, there is an abundance of data out there that clearly demonstrate the tests have a much more adverse impact on women, and students from underrepresented populations and lower socioeconomic backgrounds. This is in direct conflict with our mission as a College. Now we can add that we recognize there are outstanding, academically-prepared students, who did not do well on a test on Saturday morning, but we believe they can, too, flourish at Saint Mary’s.”

The College’s mission statement defines the values of students and faculty. Dvorak said they strive to make a difference in the world, regardless of their background or socioeconomic status.

“There are more than 1,000 colleges and universities in the U.S., including top-tier institutions, who have chosen not to require standardized test scores for admission,” vice president of enrollment management Mona Bowe said. “I believe that elevates Saint Mary’s to being recognized as one that can break with tradition if it provides access to a superb education to talented students, who for whatever reason, did not test well. It speaks to our willingness to take a stand if it means more students can benefit from the opportunity now available to them.”

First year McKenzie Looney said she would have been interested in the change to the application process as a high school senior.

“I think this would have helped me because personally I am not a great test-taker,” Looney said. “I feel that standardized tests have shown that they can not properly gage someone’s actual intellect. This makes Saint Mary’s different because I think they have realized that there is more to a person than one standardized test. People can help contribute to a college without being great at answering a bunch of questions in four hours.”

The admission team brought the proposal of changing the application process to the Admission and Scholarship committee. The decision was made by both the committee and council together after viewing supporting data. Now applicants who choose to not include a test score will have to have a GPA between a 3.2 and 4.0, submit an academic writing sample and attach a letter of recommendation from a high school teacher of their sophomore through senior years, according to the admission website.

“Admission to Saint Mary’s is a holistic process,” Bowe said. “A process that considers a number of factors in the admission decision. When a student is denied admission to the College, the decision is not based on a single factor. The process will remain the same, and all other factors will be considered when admitting students who choose not to provide their scores.”

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