Boston College has announced that it will be test optional for Class of 2025 applicants in the upcoming admissions cycle on account of concerns that the COVID-19 pandemic will prevent students from taking standardized tests in the fall.
The Office of Undergraduate Admission staff will not penalize students who do not submit SAT or ACT scores, and they will look at scores that are submitted as one component in a “holistic” application review, according to the new policy.
The University will not be requiring students to submit any additional information in lieu of test scores. For those who do not submit test scores, the admission staff will place a greater emphasis on the other components of their application, according to Director of Undergraduate Admission Grant Gosselin. These components include grades, academic rigor, class placement, extracurricular involvement, recommendations, and essays.
“It really is the same application absent this piece of information, but we will rely on those other portions—they’re going to take on additional levels of importance,” Gosselin said.
Applicants who do not submit scores will not have to justify their decision or indicate whether they were able to take a test, Gosselin said. The admission staff will also not be able to access information about whether these students have taken any standardized tests, so the staff will not be able to see if students took an exam and chose not submit their scores.
“If we were to be looking for that information, it would really be against the spirit of ‘test optional,’” Gosselin said. “They simply have the ability to let us know if they will be submitting test scores or not, and their applications will be looked at equally.”
BC is not alone in going test optional for the Class of 2025. More than half of four-year colleges and universities will not require SAT or ACT scores this year, according to FairTest, an organization that works to end flaws and misuse in standardized testing. Harvard, Tufts, Brandeis, Northeastern, and Boston University have all adopted test-optional policies for the upcoming admissions cycle.
BC plans to require standardized test scores again when the effects of the pandemic subside, but Gosselin said that he would be open to considering keeping the policy if the admission staff feels that it works more effectively when test scores are optional.
Students who do not submit standardized test scores will still be eligible for the Gabelli Presidential Scholarship as long as they apply by Nov. 1. The scholarship, typically offered to 15 students in each class, covers full tuition for four years.
The test-optional policy does not apply to students applying to transfer to BC, as transfer applicants typically submit scores from exams they took in high school. It also does not apply to athletic recruits because the NCAA still requires student-athletes to submit test scores in order to be eligible for Division I play.
ACT rescheduled its April exam for June, but centers across the country canceled the June test date as well, with only select locations administering the test this past weekend. Limited testing centers will be offering the ACT in July, and three ACT test dates are scheduled to take place in the fall semester.
The College Board, which runs the SAT, canceled its SAT test dates in May and June. The next opportunity to take the SAT will be at the end of August, and there are four additional SAT test dates scheduled through the end of the fall semester.
The College Board announced earlier this month that it would be delaying its previously announced plans to administer at-home versions of the SAT. Gosselin said that it was this announcement, combined with uncertainty about how many students will be able to test in the fall, that led him and other administrators to make BC applications test optional this year.
Some high school juniors may have lost their ability to sit for the tests more than once after the spring test dates were canceled, which Gosselin said was another factor in the decision.
“It has added a level of stress for students that we felt was our responsibility to try to mitigate,” Gosselin said.
Students can still self-report or send in AP Exam scores, predicted IB scores, and SAT Subject Test results as other quantitative measures of their academic abilities. BC offered the option to submit these scores before the COVID-19 pandemic.
“I’m not suggesting that we’re going to pull out an SAT and put in an AP score and call it even. I mean, they’re very different assessment tools,” Gosselin said. “But they do give us additional information about a student’s success.”
While the test-optional policy does apply to home-schooled applicants, the new policy strongly encourages home-schooled students who are unable to submit SAT or ACT results to send in other scores that will give the admission committee more context for their evaluation.
International students also have the option to not submit SAT or ACT scores, but they will still be required to demonstrate English language proficiency through an IELTS or TOEFL exam unless they speak English as a native language or meet other academic and testing requirements.
As for students who do take the SAT and ACT and are deciding whether to submit their scores, Gosselin said that it’s not the admission staff’s place to make a recommendation—but statistics from past years might help these students understand where they fall in the application pool.
For students admitted to the Class of 2023, the middle 50 percent of scores fell between 1420 and 1530 for the SAT, and 33 and 35 for the ACT. For those who enrolled in that class, the middle 50 percent of scores were between 1370 and 1490 for the SAT, and 31 and 34 for the ACT.
“We provide those ranges, as opposed to averages, very intentionally,” Gosselin said. “We’re trying to help students understand there is a pretty wide variation in terms of student success in this area and—again, because it is just one factor of many within our holistic review process—-that it generally is not what drives the decision in most cases.”
Test optional policies had been increasing in popularity across the country even before the COVID-19 pandemic. BC has maintained the testing requirement in the past, Gosselin said, because the University’s research has revealed a high correlation between BC’s admission rating system and students’ eventual success at the school, particularly in terms of GPA.
“They do add value to our ability to admit the class that we know will be most successful here. That’s the reason we intend to go back,” Gosselin said. “But certainly if we were to look at the results of this year and feel as though we were able to achieve the goals that we had, and enroll a class that is able to succeed at the same rate that has in the past, I can’t rule out on the fact that we could consider staying where we are.”
Featured Image by Ikram Ali / Heights Editor