In a college admissions bombshell, the University of Chicago, one of our nation’s most elite universities, has announced that it will go test-optional for domestic undergraduate applicants beginning next year. In so doing, the school — which is ranked in a tie for #3 with Yale University in the 2018 “US News & World Report” college rankings behind only Princeton University and Harvard University — has defied the status quo of America’s most elite research universities and chartered a course of its own. Hey, it’s not like the University of Chicago hasn’t been marching to the beat of its own drum for years. We’ve saluted the University of Chicago’s admissions office many times over the years, including for requiring so many extensive essays in response to often bizarre prompts so that students have the chance to demonstrate they’ve really done their homework on the university.
Changes to the University of Chicago’s Admissions Practices
The University of Chicago isn’t only going test-optional. The school has announced other admissions changes for next year, too. As reports Nick Anderson for “The Washington Post” in a piece entitled “A shake-up in elite admissions: U-Chicago drops SAT/ACT testing requirement,” “U-Chicago is also expanding financial aid and scrapping in-person admission interviews, which had been optional. Instead, it will allow applicants to send in two-minute video pitches, in an effort to connect with a generation skilled at communicating via cellphone clips. ‘Testing is not the be-all and the end-all,’ said James G. Nondorf, U-Chicago’s dean of admissions and financial aid. He said he didn’t want ‘one little test score’ to end up ‘scaring students off’ who are otherwise qualified.”
Test-Optional Universities Still Value Test Scores
But let’s not get too carried away. Keep in mind that even when schools go test-optional, the vast majority of applicants still tend to submit test scores. And do highly selective colleges that are test-optional still value great scores on exams like the SAT or ACT? Of course they do. In fact, we’d argue they value these scores even more than when they were not test-optional. But why, Ivy Coach? Because while it sounds nice and it makes you all warm and fuzzy on the inside that a school is test-optional, the #3 ranked University of Chicago still cares very much about its ranking. Test scores are a component of this ranking. So when fewer students submit SAT or ACT scores, it makes the great scores of admitted students more salient. In the end, it’s always about the rankings. Marcia, Marcia, Marcia. Rankings, rankings, rankings. And, yes, we really did just reference “The Brady Bunch.”
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