Angela Farmer


For the thousands of students in the United States perched upon their senior year in high school, the upcoming foray into the unknown matrix of college applications is a powerful inducer of stress. Where to apply geographically, what to study, and what types of evaluation tools will be used to evaluate their candidacy are among the top concerns. While those may seem as age old considerations, the truth is that the 21st century has come to reveal a wide berth in the application models and acceptance rubrics used at universities across the nation.

According to PrepScholar’s Sept. 15, 2019 article by Rebecca Safier, more and more schools are de-emphasizing standardized testing models like the SAT and ACT, replacing them with a rubric they consider more reflective of a student’s composite aptitude. There are actually top-tier colleges and research universities which have adopted test flexible, test optional, or even test blind approaches to college admissions.

With test flexible, students can submit standardized scores of their choosing. For example, test flexible schools will allow students to submit Advanced Placement courses rather than the ACT or the SAT. Test optional schools accept and evaluate a student’s application weighing the ACT or SAT as part of the portfolio, only if the student chooses to submit. There are even universities who have elected to become test blind to more fully and comprehensively evaluate a candidate’s application as an individual.

While there are those who might imagine that an alternative test policy might decrease an institution’s academic rankings, the opposite appears to emerge. The universities report that going test optional helps equalize opportunities for students of diverse backgrounds. It also often makes the institutions more selective as they consider students based on their unique and personal impact to society and future educational aspirations.

The article details more than 320 top-tier liberal arts colleges and research universities which have decreased their emphasis on standardized scores. Some of the more notable national liberal arts colleges include Smith College in Maine, Bryn Mawr in Pennsylvania, Ohio Wesleyan University in Ohio, and Austin College in Texas. National universities with alternative approaches to the empirical data include the ranks of the University of Chicago in Illinois, New York University in New York, Texas A&M in Texas, and Mississippi State University.

There is no ideal set of analytical parameters to determine which students fit a given university’s image of the perfect freshman; therefore, many colleges and universities across the nation have decided that the time has come to acknowledge that what makes a university great is not the similarities of its students. It is, rather, the dynamic variability offered when students from different backgrounds with varying interests and passions come together to create an intellectual community that will imagine, design, and create a better world for generations to come. For many other universities, to test or not to test, that remains the question.

DR. ANGELA FARMER is a lifelong educator, author, and syndicated columnist and serves Mississippi State University as an Assistant Clinical Professor for the Shackouls Honors College. Readers can contact her at

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