It’s Not The Scores, It’s The Grades

The results of a first of its kind comprehensive study of the academic performance in college of students admitted under test optional admission policies was released today by William Hiss, former dean of admissions at Bates College. In the report, entitled “Defining Promise: Optional Standardized Testing Policies in American College and University Admissions,” Mr. Hiss notes that what was sought was the answer to the fundamental question related to test optional policies: “Are college admissions decisions reliable for students who are admitted without SAT or ACT scores?”

Unequivocally, the answer is yes. No statistical difference was found in the grade point averages or graduation rates between students who submitted standardized test scores and those who did not. Also interesting, the study found that students with lower scores but strong high school grades performed better in college than students with higher scores but lower grades.  The study tracked the performance of over 120,000 students at 33 colleges and universities over an eight year period.

NPR aired a terrific piece on the study this morning – you can listen to it in its entirety on their webpage. The story notes that, to date, all colleges and universities had was “school specific” or “anecdotal” evidence that students admitted under test optional policies were performing just as well as their submitting peers. Here at Wake Forest, we graduated a higher percentage of students in 2013 – the first graduating class admitted under our test optional policy – with honors (cum laude/magna cum laude/summa cum laude) than we had in over a dozen years. We know so many of our students, submitters and non-submitters alike, are performing exceptionally well.

The study is an affirmation of what our Admissions Committee believes wholeheartedly – an exemplary high school record is a wonderful predictor of success in college. The applications on my desk are full of essays and responses to our seven “In Brief” prompts, interview evaluations, transcripts, and recommendations which describe and summarize your high school experiences. While reading the study, I found myself reflecting on how much work we put into the review of each application to ensure that the students we admit will be successful once here. Assembling our class takes a great deal of effort. Mr. Hiss’s study confirms what we surmised back in 2008 – it is worth it.