Keeping High Standards… Just Without the Standardized

Keeping High Standards… Just Without the Standardized

For decades, Denison University has placed considerable weight on SAT or ACT scores to identify would-be Denisonians. But that practice evolved on March 1, when the faculty overwhelmingly voted for a new “test optional” policy, beginning with applicants for 2008-09 academic year. That is, standardized test scores will be accepted and considered, but not required for admission.

In a long, thoughtful discussion leading up to the measure, Vice President for Admissions Perry Robinson assured the faculty that the policy would shift the standards of Denison’s admissions practices, but certainly not lower them. Rather, Robinson and his staff, who were early proponents of the idea, will carefully judge opt-out applicants by other means.

With the new policy, Denison joins a small group of prominent liberal arts colleges that have dropped test requirements over the last three years, largely in consideration of criticisms that standardized tests favor the privileged yet don’t necessarily predict a student’s success (or lack thereof) beyond the first year of college, as some studies suggest.

The rationale for the decision takes aim at two goals. The first is to enroll 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, notes Denison president Dale T. Knobel.

“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 says. “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.”

Published August 2007