CERPP Conference 2022 explores test-optional admissions

By Ellen Evaristo

February 24, 2022

Photo by Allison Shelley/The Verbatim Agency for EDUimages

Hosted by USC Rossier’s Center for Enrollment Research, Policy and Practice (CERPP) on February 8-9, national experts on admission and enrollment management convened for CERPP Conference 2022 to examine the best practices in test-optional admissions, including consideration of a test-free future. With over 160 participants from private and public higher education institutions, the two-day event titled “Best Practices in Test-Optional Admissions” covered applicant context, new paradigms for a holistic approach to student selection, making the transition to a test-free environment, supporting student equity and transparency.

  • Context: Whether domestic or international students, it is important to remember that student opportunity varies greatly. Admission decisions, and all admission factors, must be considered only within the context of a student’s educational opportunity. This is particularly true when test scores are an aspect of the decision process.
  • Holistic: The key is to look at the entire picture. Consider course rigor, curriculum strength, academic success, extracurricular involvement, traditional versus non-traditional leadership and letters of recommendations among others.
  • Transitioning to test-free: Even before the pandemic, some universities had explored and moved from testing to test-free, then setting the precedent (or a higher bar) for other schools to follow. The past two years have forced other schools to make quick adjustments in their admission process. The next national discussion will be the efficacy of a test-free admission system.
  • Equity: How do you ensure success for all students in a test-optional environment? With other factors under consideration and rubric modifications, removing the test essentially leveled the admissions playing field for some schools. In a sense, students who opt out of submitting test scores should be viewed through the same positive lens as those who choose to submit scores.
  • Transparency: Critical to any equitable system of admission is the ability of prospective students and their families to understand how it operates. One irony of test-optional and test-free admission systems is that they tend to be less transparent—students cannot compare their test scores to those who have been admitted. Any new paradigm must include cogent and clear explanations of how admission decisions are made and what factors are included in those decisions.

By equitably assessing the whole applicant—context, context, context—and periodically reviewing and adapting the admissions process, the indicators for academic success can potentially be determined without a standardized test. A test-free admission system may not be too farfetched nor too far down the line.

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