The Benefits of Drexel's Test-Optional Policy
October 16, 2020
Back in July, I wrote a blog post about what was then Drexel's new Test-Optional policy. At the time, the Office of Undergraduate Admissions already had four months of working remotely under its belt due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Although I was unsure of what the next few months would bring, I was hopeful that we would be able to welcome students to campus for the beginning of the fall term. Unfortunately, that did not happen. The shifting nature of the pandemic, its impact on other colleges and universities, and our immediate area caused University leadership to make the very prudent decision to have all undergraduate courses taught remotely for the fall.
I was also aware of several administrations of the SAT and ACT having been cancelled back in July — that was part of the reason that we made the decision to go test-optional. We knew that many students didn't have access to take standardized tests, and it seemed antithetical to our roles as counselors and educators to keep a mandatory requirement that a significant subset of our students would be unable to fulfill. The cancellation of standardized tests has continued over the past few months. According to Inside Higher Ed, 337,000 combined students who registered for the SAT were unable to take the exam during the September 26 and October 3 test dates due to COVID-19-related cancellations. The ACT has also had many test administrations cancelled recently and the West Coast wildfires have added an extra layer of complication to sitting for college entrance exams along with COVID-19. For all of these reasons, I believe that we made the right choice in the summer by choosing to go test-optional; but it's not enough.
We remain committed to being empathetic and flexible in our work with students, counselors, and parents as we seek to enroll the next generation of Dragons and wish all the best to those going through the process this year.
Although many colleges and universities have adopted a test-optional policy, the uncertainty from parents and students about how admission offices will view test-optional applicants is adding more stress to the process...during a pandemic. That is certainly not the intended endgame for those of us who have dedicated our careers to working in education. Now, more than ever, we want to emphasize self-care and for people to realize that although the college search process is important, mental and physical health are even more important. Students should not be putting themselves at risk in order to sit for college entrance exams — ever, and certainly not in a year when more schools are test-optional than at any other time in the modern era.
In thinking about what we can do in order to help reduce the stress around standardized testing this year, we came up with the following points.
We unequivocally state that students will not be at a disadvantage in our process by not submitting standardized test scores. This applies not only for admission, but for merit scholarship consideration as well.
In order to be more flexible with students who choose to submit test scores, we have expanded the options for students to report their scores. In addition to sending SAT or ACT scores directly to us from the appropriate testing agency or having a school counselor send us scores, we will also accept a copy of a test score report sent directly to us from a student.
At Drexel, test-optional means test-optional, straight up. We are excited to use the application process to get to know who our applicants are and why they see Drexel as a good fit for their collegiate aspirations. We remain committed to being empathetic and flexible in our work with students, counselors, and parents as we seek to enroll the next generation of Dragons and wish all the best to those going through the process this year.
Michael J. Keaton is Dean of Undergraduate Admissions at Drexel. Mike enjoys public speaking, is a music and pop culture enthusiast, and has been working in college admissions since 1998.