NACAC, in collaboration with the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation and several other organizations, is carefully exploring admission policies and practices in an increasingly test-optional or test-free environment. In a previous post, we provided an overview of the project, which is grounded in the work that the Task Force on Standardized Admission Testing for International and US Students completed in 2021.
“The task force observed that if standardized testing perpetuates or worsens inequities, and if it is to remain a part of the undergraduate admission process at all, it must receive the most stringent of reviews,” according to the task force’s report on standardized testing.
As an extension of this thinking, the committee recommended that colleges’ decisions about their test policies should “include a plan for frequent reviews.” The 2021 task force also noted that simply going test-optional or test-free will not in and of itself universally improve equity. As colleges navigate the immediate future of test-optional and test-free admission, in addition to the broader equity considerations related to college admission, they must ensure that historically marginalized perspectives are front-and-center as admission offices craft policies to adapt to a new legal and political landscape.
NACAC’s role in facilitating conversation about equitable admission practices in the current admission context is to ensure careful examination of admission policies and practices, particularly as it applies to improving equity outcomes for college access.
One of the most significant effects of the COVID-19 pandemic in the college admission ecosystem was the relatively rapid and nearly wholesale adoption of test-optional (or test-free, in some cases) admission policies by colleges and universities.
Prior to the pandemic, the biggest challenge to an institution considering moving to a test-optional admission policy was the institutional decision-making thicket that could prove difficult to navigate, in part due to the inertia that can define systems and structures and inhibit movement away from the status quo. COVID-19 short-circuited the process, as colleges moved away from test requirements out of necessity: The admission testing infrastructure—high schools, for the most part—was locked down. The decision was, in many ways, made for colleges and universities as much as by colleges and universities. Now that the pandemic is receding in the distance, colleges and other stakeholders must begin the hard work of assessing whether the switch to test-optional admission will produce hoped-for improvements to equity, a process that will require careful examination.
It was the spring of 1985 and all I wanted was a Swatch watch. There wasn’t a specific one that I wanted; I just really wanted a Swatch. I had spent most of ‘84 ogling the bold plastic watches that I would see some of my lucky friend’s wear. In the mall we would walk past the glass display box in the department store on the way to the Naturalizer store for my mom’s beige work pumps. The loud colorful watches were screaming, “Look at me!” I always did. There were so many to choose from, too many. After what felt like years of asking and pleading for a Swatch, my mom finally agreed, but on one condition.
“If you clean up the yard, I’ll take you to pick out a Swatch.”
“She’s quite a character.” “He’s a character actor.” “They are people of good character.”
We throw the word character around a lot, but what does it really mean? For the Character Collaborative—an organization of about 70 schools and colleges, as well as counselors, researchers, and associations committed to elevating attributes of character in the school and college admission process—character suggests features that distinguish an individual.
It took a lot of work to become a high-achieving high school senior.
You studied hard, got involved outside the classroom, and took pride in your accomplishments.
You are now in the middle of applying to numerous colleges and universities, completing the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA), and having staff at your school talk to you about scholarship opportunities. You are being congratulated and celebrated by family, teachers, and community members for your hard work and good grades—and you might have been told that a college is sure to award you a large or full-ride scholarship due to your GPA and achievements.
As a financial aid administrator for 26 years, this is when I get concerned. The false presumption among many students that their top-choice college will surely offer them an attractive financial aid package too often leads to students spending little or no time applying for local scholarships.
Editor’s note: The following is an excerpt from a Washington Monthly article examining AP courses and college racial inequities.
By Anne Kim
In a year when the coronavirus pandemic threw college admissions into chaos, 18-year-old Chloe Pressley of Prince William County, Virginia, succeeded beyond her wildest expectations. She got into multiple prestigious colleges, including Caltech, the University of Virginia, and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. The University of Richmond (VA) offered her a full ride. This fall, she’s headed to Yale.
Editor’s note: In August 2020, NACAC released a report urging colleges and universities to examine their policies and practices concerning standardized tests and their potential impact on equity and access. This column is the fifth in a series of articles reflecting on the report’s recommendations and offering insight into the current state of standardized admission testing.
I’m not sure I ever thought I’d see that day at the University of California (UC) or the University of California—Los Angeles (UCLA), but here we are. On the heels of an admission cycle that mirrored the uncertainty and turmoil of the world around us, I’m being intentional about taking time to reflect on the year and lessons learned.
While the conversations regarding the continued use of standardized testing in UC admission began long before COVID, its onset certainly impacted the decision around test-optional versus test-free. Challenges regarding access to exams and accommodations needed by students were primary in discussions among our staff and faculty and, ultimately, the courts in California settled any lingering uncertainty. Each of the nine UC campuses moved to a test-free admission process and will continue this approach through the fall 2024 admission cycle.
Did you know that one in five college students in the United States is a parent? They number nearly 4 million undergraduate students, yet few colleges and universities know how many parents they have on campus, or how these students are faring. Student-parents are highly motivated to attain a degree to provide a better life for themselves and their children, but they face unique barriers in accessing and completing their college education—student-parents are nearly twice as likely to leave college before graduating than students who are not parents.
As one of the first people that student-parents interact with on their educational journey, college admission counselors can play a key role in supporting the success of these students as they seek a higher degree.
NACAC is an association that is learning, changing, and growing at the same incredible pace as the field of college admission.
Over the past year, we’ve invested in new education content and technology platforms to help college counselors and admission professionals be successful. At the heart of our work is the belief that responding to our members’ needs and providing value is what will make the association and our profession strong.
With more than 25,000 members now relying on NACAC to optimize their practices, our ambitions around providing the best education and content have only gotten bigger. That’s why we’re excited to announce the launch of the NACAC Podcast Network, a new audio destination that is home to eight great shows representing a wide range of perspectives. Together, this collection covers the scope of college admission from the student, family, counselor, and college perspective.