Even before the college admissions scandal rocked the nation in early March, standardized testing was always a controversial issue. On March 27, USF announced that it will join over 1,000 accredited universities in being test-optional.
The policy will be implemented for students applying for the fall 2020 semester.
According to Provost Don Heller, USF started reviewing the implementation of optional testing approximately a year ago. The decision was ultimately made considering USF’s holistic admissions process, he said in an email. It was determined that test scores added minimal value and that the grades that students receive in high school are a better indicator of how the student would perform at USF.
“We were also concerned about the strong correlation between standardized test scores and socioeconomic status in this country,” Heller said in an email. “These scores, including the SAT and ACT, are highly correlated with a student’s race and family income, providing an advantage to some students and a disadvantage to many others.”
Heller also said that because this change had been under consideration for a couple of years, the recent college admissions scandal involving cheating on standardized tests had no bearing on USF’s decision.
A study by the National Association for College Admissions Counseling (NACAC) found that a quarter of applicants at test optional schools choose not to submit test scores. Private schools saw a 29% increase in overall applications after going test-optional, according to NACAC’s study.
“It gives students more opportunity to decide how they wish to be reviewed for admission,” Michael Beseda, who heads USF’s admission office and its operations, said in an email. “Some institutions see increases in the diversity of their applicant pool. USF’s applicant pool is already extraordinarily diverse so I don’t think this change will impact that characteristic.”
For students who choose not to submit test scores, the University will likely place slightly more weight on the USF-specific short essay in their review for admission, Beseda said.
Senior Adule Dejani, a student ambassador who gives campus tours and communicates with prospective students, is looking forward to what opportunities this will bring to USF applicants.
“I would like to make it known on all tours so that if there is someone worried about paying for additional tutoring to do well on the SAT/ACT to get into college, they won’t have to worry much about that if they truly want to be here,” Dejani said.
Mardy Harding contributed to the reporting in this article.