MACON – Mercer University will implement a test optional admission policy for first-year applicants during the next three admissions cycles, making submission of SAT and ACT scores optional through the fall 2023 entering class.
The intent of these standardized tests is to predict how successful a student will be in his or her first year of college, but a number of test optional schools have found student success at their particular institution does not necessarily correlate with their SAT and ACT scores. Many of these institutions have likewise found that going test optional has made positive contributions to ethnic and economic diversity on campus.
While Mercer has considered making this change for the past several years, the COVID-19 pandemic has created an appropriate time to evaluate this admissions approach in practice. In response to the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic that has limited access to ACT and SAT standardized testing opportunities, colleges and universities across the country have examined their admission criteria and instituted test optional or test flexible policies or otherwise de-emphasized the use of ACT or SAT scores in making admission decisions for all or many applicants who recently graduated from high school.
Cal Tech, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia, Dartmouth, Duke, George Washington, Harvard, New York University, Northwestern, Tulane, Yale and the entire University of California system are among the institutions that have recently introduced test optional policies, joining institutions that had already adopted this approach such as Wake Forest and the University of Chicago.
“For several years, we have examined the impact of test optional policies at colleges and universities similar to Mercer while considering the role of standardized test scores in a holistic application process which strives to ensure that students who enroll are able to succeed in Mercer’s academically rigorous traditional undergraduate program,” said Dr. Penny Elkins, senior vice president for enrollment management. “Not all students have the same access to test preparation resources, and COVID-19 has imposed new challenges with canceled spring test dates and limited, already-full fall test dates. Now is the right time to introduce this three-year pilot program.”
Mercer continues to review applications holistically, and test optional applicants seeking to enroll in the University’s traditional undergraduate program must meet other admissions requirements and criteria. Some state-funded and University-funded merit scholarships will still require test score submission for eligibility.
“A test optional, holistic application review allows students to show how they have challenged themselves in high school, given back to their communities, and what they will contribute to the Mercer community,” said Dr. Kelly Holloway, assistant vice president for enrollment management. “We remain committed to our students’ success and will assess this new policy each year to ensure students have the resources they need to be successful at Mercer.”