Denison to Offer Leading-Edge Standardized Test-Optional Admissions Alternative
Posted: March 9, 2007
Denison University, a highly selective liberal arts college enrolling students from all 50 states, has announced it will begin giving applicants for admission the option of submitting standardized test scores or choosing not to include SAT I or ACT test results as part of their application credentials. The decision to make Denison admissions "test optional" beginning with applications for the 2008-09 academic year was approved by a vote of the general faculty of the college on March 1 and places Denison at the forefront of a trend among the nation's leading undergraduate liberal arts colleges. Heretofore, standardized test scores were required of all applicants to Denison.
The success of this new admissions procedure will be measured by its ability to help Denison achieve two key institutional enrollment goals. One is to sustain the college's momentum in enrolling a student body with exceptional academic qualifications. The second is to recruit and retain men and women who bring diverse backgrounds and experiences to enrich Denison's participatory learning environment. Colleges that have previously adopted a test-optional strategy have realized striking gains in both areas. Encouraged by the opportunity to present the package of credentials that best demonstrates their readiness for college success, a larger number of students representing a broader slice of college-bound men and women complete the application process. Already attracting more than 5,000 applicants annually for its incoming class of about 580, Denison expects to have an even greater opportunity to select young people who are in the best position to take the fullest advantage of the college's educational resources.
Describing the motivation for this innovation in admissions processing, Denison University President Dale Knobel said, "Many students believe that their preparation for college is best represented by their actual academic record in secondary school, supplemented by letters of recommendation and evidence of school and community leadership, while others believe that this information plus standardized test scores is the most accurate indicator of their college readiness. Denison will now give students the opportunity to choose which materials they believe best show their individual strengths. Standardized test scores, which are suspected by many in and out of higher education to be affected by socioeconomic and cultural biases, should not stand in the way of strong students who want to put their best foot forward in the college admissions process."
Knobel continued, "The goal of this approach to admissions is to give Denison the greatest opportunity to acquire a holistic reading of an individual candidate for admission. We are a place that strives for the education of the whole person, and it is only fitting that we ask an applicant to provide the portrait of him or herself that best captures their strengths and the attributes that they believe could strengthen our college community."
Commenting on a growing body of research that questions whether standardized tests add much to the documented record of academic achievement that a student brings from high school, Knobel observed, "Many in the higher education community have become anxious about the ability of standardized tests to accurately reflect, in a culturally-blind and socioeconomically neutral way, actual student readiness for college. We seek first and foremost to enroll students of all backgrounds who have demonstrated through their hard work in the classroom that they can achieve at Denison. The alternative of reviewing test scores or not as they are submitted by the student applicant gives us the flexibility to make even better admissions decisions and to achieve greater social equity."
Vice President and Director of Admissions Perry Robinson adds, "This option will make the Denison admissions process more accessible to bright and talented individuals coming from all segments of the population, including students of color, first-generation college-goers, and young people from less privileged socioeconomic backgrounds." Robinson added, "It essentially 'levels the playing field' for strong students who may not have had the opportunity to take standardized tests numerous times, pay the tuition for a private test preparation course, or have access to test preparation tutors at their secondary school."
This important decision places Denison in some respected academic company. Several independent New England colleges, including Middlebury in Vermont, Bowdoin and Bates in Maine, and Mount Holyoke and Holy Cross in Massachusetts, have been pioneers in the movement. With this resolution, Denison becomes the first U.S. News Top-50 college west of the Appalachians to institute such a policy. In doing so, Denison also joins Hamilton, Bard, and Union Colleges in upstate New York and Franklin & Marshall and Dickinson colleges in eastern Pennsylvania in offering some form of test-optional admissions alternative.
Denison University, founded in 1831, is an independent, residential liberal arts institution located in Granville, Ohio. A highly selective college enrolling 2,100 full-time undergraduate students from all 50 states and dozens of foreign countries, Denison is a place where innovative faculty and motivated students collaborate in rigorous scholarship, civic engagement and the cultivation of independent thinking.
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