Current application data shows that most applicants do not submit test results

Only 44% of those who applied to college through the joint application until February 15 submitted SAT or ACT scores. This is a substantial drop from last year (when comparing only colleges that used the Common App both years), when the total up to February 15, 2020 was 77%.

A memo to Common App members from Jenny Rickard, CEO of Common App, said that “not surprisingly, given the difficulties students faced in accessing test sites during the pandemic and the flexible policies of members regarding the submission of tests. test scores, the share of applications submitted with test results decreased significantly compared to the previous year. “

The common application processes applications from more than one million students per year.

Most colleges that took elective tests before the pandemic said between a quarter and a third of applicants did not submit grades. So if the numbers hold up, they will represent a major shift in the way students apply to college and the way colleges assess applicants, at least temporarily.

The Common App does not publish data on individual colleges, but does publish aggregate totals.

Data provided by the Common Application also shows significant reductions in the number of minority applicants submitting scores. Consider the following table showing the under-represented minority applicants (black or African American, Latino, Native American or Alaskan native, or native Hawaiian or other Pacific Islander) versus white and Asian American applicants. The selectivity in the table is determined by the percentage of candidates admitted. The more selective colleges admit less than 50 percent of applicants.

Under-represented minority applicants

College Category % of scores submitted 2019 % of grades submitted 2020
Private, large (10,000 and over), less selective 73% 28%
Private, large (10,000 and over), more selective 84% 40%
Private, small ( 68% 25%
Private, small ( 78% 34%
Public, large (10,000 and over), less selective 74% 32%
Public, large (10,000 and over), more selective 81% 49%
Public, small ( 63% 21%
Public, small ( 71% 27%

White and Asian American applicants

College Category % of scores submitted 2019 % of grades submitted 2020
Private, large (10,000 and over), less selective 77% 44%
Private, large (10,000 and over), more selective 90% 61%
Private, small ( 73% 38%
Private, small ( 86% 54%
Public, large (10,000 and over), less selective 80% 49%
Public, large (10,000 and over), more selective 87% 64%
Public, small ( 69% 32%
Public, small ( 79% 47%

Similar statistics are available for first generation students and those who have received fee waivers on their applications.

These reductions in the number of candidates submitting scores are larger than what the testing companies wanted to see or assumed would take place.

ACT admitted a drop last week, but Janet Godwin, CEO of ACT, wrote on her blog that colleges that still review test scores said they were using them in admissions decisions “despite the drop. 20-30% of the number of students submitting test results “.

ACT, in response to the new data, released a statement. “These numbers are disappointing, especially for our students from disadvantaged backgrounds who already face barriers to post-secondary success. Test results are an important piece of the admissions puzzle. They convey a wealth of information beyond a number from 1 to 36 which helps colleges and institutions understand a student’s needs to better support them at every stage of their university journey, academically, socially and emotionally ” , indicates the press release.

A College Board spokesperson said he had the same reaction to Godwin’s blog post. The College Board has supported flexibility in admissions during the pandemic. This flexibility must extend to all student achievement, from schoolwork to extracurricular activities, as students live in more difficult conditions and change circumstances than ever before. “said the spokesperson. “Never has it been more important for admissions officers to look at student results in context. “

Robert Schaeffer, Acting Executive Director of FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing, and longtime testing critic, said: “The only shocking fact here is how high the percentages of non-submissions are in virtually all the categories. “

He said that “some observers expected the diffusion of innovation to be delayed among students who apply without ACT-SAT scores until they (and their counselors, parents, etc.) are more convinced that the optional testing policies were legitimate. The Common App report shows their concerns were not justified. “

Schaeffer added, “Ultimately, choosing the optional ACT / SAT is a win-win solution for institutions and applicants. This is why so many schools that have temporarily suspended testing requirements for fall 2021 have already extended this policy until fall 2022 and, frequently, beyond. “

Leslie Cornfeld is the founder and CEO of the National Education Equity Lab, an organization that helps low-income students enter college.

She said: “I think we’ve known for some time that standardized tests like ACT and SAT can mask talent in black and Latino communities.”

Cornfeld added that “it is essential that we think about alternatives to SAT and ACT in this country”. She said, for example, that programs in which high school students take college courses could “provide a demonstration of college readiness.”

Robert J. Massa, director and co-founder of Enrollment Intelligence Now, said he did not see the drops as too surprising, “given the difficulty of passing the tests, the aspirations of students who see the elective movement as a possible route to the best colleges and the considerable efforts of colleges to convince their applicants that optional means optional and that non-submission would not hamper their chances of admission. “

In addition, he said, “with the fewer opportunities to take the test and the increase in the number of applications submitted to highly selective institutions, it is not surprising that the number of non-applicants has increased. Significantly. From a student perspective, it’s a ‘what have I got to lose?’ “My test scores would have excluded me last year, so I wouldn’t have applied, but I will try now as the test scores are optional.” “

What will we see in the future? “While I believe that the ultraselective colleges that have become the optional tests in response to COVID will revert to requiring the tests, most colleges will remain the optional tests,” Massa said.

“We will therefore continue to see fewer students submitting grades than in the ’19 -’20 cycle, but more test submissions to the more selective colleges than in the current cycle. This will continue to challenge the optional selective testing colleges. as they strive to create a fair process that applies consistent assessment rubrics in the reading of their non-submitted candidates. “


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