Thoughts About the New Test-Optional Policy

Morgan Trousdale

With the fall of the leaves and the change of the weather, millions of American high school students begin to turn their thoughts towards the looming college decision.


On July 16, Rockhurst announced it would be joining a growing number of academic institutions across America to adopt a test-optional admission policy. This means that potential students are presented with the option of withholding their ACT or SAT scores. Instead, students will be  reviewed on factors such as high school academic performance (indicated on their transcripts), as well as a holistic look at student involvement. Participation in service, recommendations, and personal statements provided by students will also play a role in the decision-making process.


The ACT is a college entrance exam accepted by most universities in America. According to ACT, the scores are based on the number of correct answers, and the content is derived from the nationally recognized core high school curriculum. While many argue that the standardized tests provide a foundation for equal comparison amongst potential college students, the test has also received criticism for inaccurately representing certain socioeconomic groups. Higher testing scores have been linked to test-taking classes and test prep that often comes with a sizable fee. In addition, the standardized tests present the option for students to take the tests multiple times in order to increase score (for a fee, of course).


A statement released by Provost and Senior Vice-President for Academic Affairs, Douglas N. Dunham, Ph.D., noted that, “Institutions that have adopted similar test optional policies have reported graduation rates at least equal to their test-required peers as well as increased access and inclusion”. Additionally, data from Rockhurst has shown that high school GPA is a better predictor of college success than ACT scores.


Skeptics of the admission change argue that the test-optional application gives the impression that the university is becoming less competitive to attend. However, the university states that this will not be the case and that submitting scores can only help, never hurt, a potential Hawk. Some exclusions to the new policy exist, such as those applying for pre-admit programs and student athletes.


Despite critics of the new policy, Rockhurst students and the community appear to be highly receptive and in favor of the change. Rockhurst student, Mason Basler, stated, “I have always believed that standardized tests such as the ACT or SAT should not hold as much power as they do…everyone is their own unique individual and deserves to be treated as such.” Another student, Amanda Ellis, believes that, “the change in our admissions policy is an awesome opportunity to acknowledge the full abilities of a person and grants the potential for so many more students to become members of our community.”


The new policy sends a message to current students, potential students, the local community and other institutions that the university is aware of issues that impact low-income and underrepresented students. It is a step in the right direction towards a more inclusive and diverse community aligned with Jesuit values.