SAT and ACT scores, historically used by Goshen College to calculate financial aid packages, will not be required for applicants during the 2020-21 admissions cycle. 

Without the standardized test requirement, the admissions office has noted a high percentage of completed GC applications compared to this time in normal years. Students don’t have to wait for test scores in order to submit their applications. 

“This decision strives to make our admissions requirements more accessible and equitable for students applying to enroll at GC for fall 2021,” said Dominique Burgunder-Johnson, vice president of marketing and enrollment, in the Aug. 4 press release.

For now, the option to exclude test scores is only temporary and the administration plans to revisit the decision at the end of the school year. 

When the nation shut down in March and opportunities to take the SAT or ACT became limited, many colleges and universities - including some of the nation’s most elite - announced they would be going test-optional. 

Cornell University was the first to announce their test-optional policy in late April, citing the “extraordinary circumstance” of the pandemic. 

Six months later, more than 1,600 four-year colleges and universities decided to follow suit for fall 2021 admission, according to data from FairTest.

Goshen College President Rebecca Stoltzfus said this kind of change was only possible due to a perfect storm of recent happenings: studies being released on how standardized tests are not the best indicators for college success, and naturally, the COVID-19 pandemic. 

“Two years ago it would have felt controversial,” she said.

Now, however, it is the new normal for colleges and universities. 

“The pavement was laid for this, the pandemic environment just put everyone over the edge,” she said.

The SAT has received its fair share of criticism over the years, with many studies finding that it favors affluent white and Asian students, and that wealthier people can easily pay for a tutor or a study program resulting in better scores. 

Despite these criticisms, there have also been studies that found that the SAT can be an accurate predictor of a student’s success. 

According to an article by the New York Times, a faculty task force at the University of California found standardized tests to be better predictors of college success than high school grades. 

The SAT as a predictor of academic success is the principle reason it is normally required, and why it will most likely be required in the future. 

“We certainly want to recruit students to Goshen College who can succeed at Goshen College,” President Stoltzfus said. “It is academically rigorous, and we don’t want to admit students who will be academically overwhelmed.” 

SAT and ACT scores are also used by admissions to calculate financial aid packages, said Linda VandenBosch, director of admissions.  

“The test score in the past was calculated into the scholarship score when we assigned an academic scholarship. This year our financial aid consultants have created a new model for us,” VandenBosch said, “[it] uses just the GPA, if the student opts out of the testing.” 

Samantha Shank, senior nursing student, wishes that she could have opted out of submitting test scores when she applied to Goshen College. 

“According to my GPA I was supposed to get the highest academic scholarship, but because of my SAT I was docked $2,000,” Shank said. 

“It was really frustrating for me, because I had been a really great student all through high school, and I had worked hard to have good grades for college, but because of one test on one day, I lost thousands of dollars that are now being added on to my other thousands of dollars in debt, even though I proved year after year that I deserved that scholarship.” 

Both VandenBosch and Stotlzfus have affirmed that GPA is the most important part of a student’s application. 

“From a data perspective, for the students that chose Goshen College, their GPA was a better predictor of success than their test scores were,” VandenBosch said.

According to President Stoltzfus, the decision ultimately boiled down to making necessary accommodations for students, while still requiring academic excellence. 

“We also don’t want to throw academic standards out the window,” she said, “because it is really discouraging for everyone when there is a growing number of students who can’t succeed.”