Test Optional Colleges

An evolving trend in the world of higher education is a swing toward test-optional colleges, meaning schools where students are not required to submit SAT or ACT scores. According to the National Center For Fair and Open Testing, the current count of such institutions is over 850, and is expected to continue growing. The list includes many selective and highly selective colleges, especially private liberal arts colleges, and some state universities. So far no Ivies have gone T.O. (after all, the SAT was originally developed as a means for Harvard to judge applicant scholarship worthiness). The following is a short illustrative list:

  • Bard
  • Bowdoin
  • California State system
  • Denison
  • Franklin & Marshall
  • Lawrence
  • Lewis & Clark
  • Middlebury
  • Rollins
  • University of Arizona
  • University of Kansas

Test optional is good news for students who are bright and hard-working who may not perform well on standardized tests, and it is good news for colleges, as the trend allows them to escape to some extent from the tyranny of publishing ever higher student score ranges to sustain their selectivity profile.

The diminishment of the importance of testing follows from long years of criticism of the cultural bias of such tests and their potential lack of validity. Admissions professionals at many colleges affirm that the strongest predictor of student success in college is performance in a rigorous high school curriculum.

For a comprehensive list of test-optional colleges, see www.fairtest.org.


RECENTLY VISITED: The University of Kansas

A recent visit to the University of Kansas in Lawrence, KS, definitely put KU solidly on my personal “schools of interest” list.

Those who have driven cross-country on I-70 may have a sense of Kansas as one long, flat, endless, monochromatic prairie.  Not so the northeastern part of the state, which is green with lovely rolling hills. The 1000-acre KU campus is perched on an enormous granite rise, giving it more interesting and varied terrain than your average institution. The architecture is amazing, especially the stunning red tile roofs that crown many of the historic campus buildings. One picture I noted from a university promotional piece featuring a fall scene makes the campus look a bit like something out of Tuscany.

For Colorado students with an interest in excellent out-of-state universities within a short flight or daylong drive, KU could be a superb choice. It features many highly ranked academic programs, among them education, social welfare, business, music, and engineering. Also noteworthy is the degree of participation among the student body in volunteering; more than one-third of the 19,000+ undergraduate students take part, a well-deserved point of pride.

Additionally, tuition and fees are a bargain, both for residents of Kansas (who paid under $9000 for tuition and fees for 2010-11), and for those from elsewhere; out-of-state students enrolled for this academic year received a $21,539 bill, according to the university. Even better, KU has a Tuition Compact that locks in tuition charges for four years.

Finally, for those looking for a school with strong athletic traditions and lots of school spirit KU will be a strong draw. Rock Chalk, Jayhawk!

Dr. Lisa Ransdell is a comprehensive educational consultant and college planning professional with 27 years of college teaching and 20 years in higher education administration forming the foundation of her practice: www.pinnacle-educ.com