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Hampshire College stands by decision to stop accepting SAT and ACT scores

Lindsey Davis/Daily Collegian

Lindsey Davis/Daily Collegian

Hampshire College’s class of 2019 is unique from all other United States freshman classes in one way — none of these students had the option to submit their SAT or ACT scores during the admissions process.

Hampshire College is the first university in the nation to take such a step. The school announced its decision in June to stop accepting SAT or ACT scores as part of applications. The college had been test-optional, along with over 850 other accredited, bachelor-degree-granting institutions, according to a Washington Post article.

As a result of this decision, U.S. News & World Report will no longer list Hampshire College in its annual college rankings.

But Hampshire’s dean of enrollment and retention Meredith Twombly isn’t worried.

“By dropping the test scores, we were actually liberated from that whole regime of chasing rankings,” she said.

The five academic deans, the vice president of academic affairs and the college’s president Jonathan Lash decided to stop accepting scores in response to a study conducted by Hampshire that compared its successful students with those on academic probation or academic contract, a step below academic probation.

The college interviewed the 50 most successful juniors and seniors to determine what qualities enabled them to succeed at Hampshire, Twombly, who led the study said in comparing 40 struggling and 50 thriving students, the study found no correlation between test scores and success at Hampshire.

In fact, a large number of struggling students had high test scores, she said.

“We hoped to align our admissions policy very publicly with our mission,” Twombly said. “We wanted to let applicants know that we don’t value test scores, we value what you do day in and day out.”

The decision has been a success “on all counts” according to Twombly.

In place of letter grades, Hampshire utilizes a system called narrative evaluations. These are similar to professional performance evaluations and are engineered to help students identify their areas of strength and growth potential.

Danielle Aihini, a junior journalism and philosophy double major agreed with Hampshire’s decision, saying test scores are not the best judgement of student potential.

“I don’t believe in standardized tests whatsoever…I think it puts too much pressure on kids,” added Kylee Denesha, a junior journalism and theater major.

She said students’ test performances relate to how well they are taught, which varies from school to school.

“I think it’s a great idea,” Renee Vartabedian, a freshman mechanical engineering major said. “One test on a single day shouldn’t be representative of someone’s intelligence.”

All three students had to submit their SAT scores to all their potential colleges.      The school’s admissions yield, or percentage of students accepted who enroll, rose from 18 to 26 percent, class diversity has increased from 21 to 31 percent students of color and the percentage of first-generation college students increased from 10 to 18 percent, according to a statement by Lash in the Post article.

UMass requires freshmen applicants to submit their SAT or ACT scores. Transfer applicants are required to submit their scores if they have under 27 credits or are transferring from an institution with non-standard grading methods.

“Given the large number of applicants…we find that the SAT is one important aspect, a data point that we can use in evaluating students,” UMass spokesperson Ed Blaguszewski said.

SAT scores are evaluated holistically along with other aspects of a student’s application, including GPA, overall high school performance and other activities, he said.

Twombly said she has received extensive positive feedback on the change, primarily from high school guidance counselors.

“They are so frustrated by what their students are forced to deal with and the amount of pressure and emphasis (that) is put on these tests,” she said.

If Hampshire continues to demonstrate successful results, other colleges may make the same decision, despite the risk of forgoing applicants as a result of not being ranked in U.S. News & World Report, Twombly said.

“That pressure is building,” she said. “Because there’s so much research about the socioeconomic and cultural (biases) of this test that it’s getting hard to defend a non-test-blind or test-optional admissions (policy).”

Patricia LeBoeuf can be reached at patricialebo@umass.edu.

Comments
One Response to “Hampshire College stands by decision to stop accepting SAT and ACT scores”
  1. Crue says:

    In other news, employers across America stand by their decision to ignore Hampshire College students. That school is like a living, breathing Onion article.

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