The Ivy Coach Daily

July 23, 2019

The Fruits of UChicago’s Test-Optional Admissions Policy

UChicago Test Optional, Chicago Test Optional, Testing at UChicago
The University of Chicago does not require applicants to submit an SAT or ACT score (photo credit: Richie Diesterheft).

Just a little over a year ago, the University of Chicago made headlines for becoming America’s most highly selective university to go test-optional in admissions. It was, unquestionably, a bold move. But, hey, the University of Chicago is nothing but bold. The school is home to the renowned economist who claimed and substantiated that the drop in crime in the 1990’s was attributable to the legalization of abortion in 1973 — because the children who would have grown up to become criminals were never born. The school is home to an admissions office that asks applicants the oddest and most interesting essay questions of any highly selective college in America. But just how did the bold move of going test-optional play out this past admissions cycle? Did more applicants apply? Did the school receive more applications from coveted low-income and first-generation college students?

University of Chicago Sees Increased Applications for Class of 2023

Yes and yes! As Jim Jump reports for Inside Higher Ed in a piece entitled “Ethical College Admissions: Chicago Declares Test Optional a Success,” “The university increased enrollment of first-gen and low-income students by 20 percent and rural students by 56 percent, and it enrolled 14 veterans after having none the previous year. It accomplished this while lowering its admit rate to 6 percent and raising its average SAT score…Chicago experienced an application increase of approximately 7 percent, or close to 2,500 more applications than in 2018. There is certainly nothing exceptional about an institution of Chicago’s caliber seeing a 7 percent increase in applications from year to year. I haven’t seen research that indicates what kind of impact going test optional has had on other institutions’ application numbers, but there is nothing in Chicago’s experience this year that suggests a test-optional application surge.”

Increased Applications Are Not Necessarily Solely Attributable to a Test-Optional Policy

Of course as any world renowned economist would tell you, correlation does not imply causation. There is not necessary a cause-and-effect relationship between the University of Chicago’s decision to go test-optional and the increased applications and the increased applications from the coveted groups. As Jump details, “In an email [Dean of admissions and financial aid Jim] Nondorf told me that it is hard to know whether the testing change alone generated applications but that he was confident that the full set of UChicago Empower enhancements inspired students to apply who wouldn’t have otherwise considered Chicago.” But, nonetheless, it will be interesting to see in the years ahead if the University of Chicago continues to increase not only their total applicant pool but also their pool of applicants who are first-generation college and/or low-income students. And it will be interesting to see if any increases will be attributable to its test-optional policy.

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