At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, a number of colleges and universities throughout the nation made the Fall 2020 admission cycle test-optional as safety protocols caused many SAT and ACT testing dates to be postponed or canceled, according to Alyssa McCloud, senior vice president of enrollment management.
“Many families were struggling and we didn’t want to add any stress or anxiety during this challenging time,” McCloud said. “We were pleased that we could make this accommodation to support students through the application process.”
Test-optional college applications are nothing new. Seton Hall will join the list of over 1,350 accredited, four-year colleges and universities that are now offering test-optional admissions, according to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing.
Standardized college admissions tests had come under scrutiny before the pandemic. Debates over whether these tests give an unfair advantage to more wealthy students with propoents of test-optional policies noting that test prep tends to be expensive, with 40 hours of test prep ranging from $100 to $8,000 dollars, according to PrepScholar. The SAT, one of the most popular standardized tests for incoming college students, can cost up to $65 each time a student sits for the exam, which can be difficult for some students to afford.
McCloud said Seton Hall was aware that standardized tests were not the only gauge of what a student has to offer. “We recognize that standardized tests are not always the best indicator of student performance and we wanted to offer the many gifted, hard-working students the ability to access a Seton Hall education,” she said.
A 2015 study by Inside Higher Ed found that students coming from families with an average yearly income below $20,000 average a score of only 433 in each of the three parts of the SAT, while students coming from a family with an average income above $200,000 average 570 points.
“Standardized tests arguably exacerbate educational inequality relative to income, because not all applicants can afford such assistance,” Jonathan Farina, president of the Seton Hall Faculty Senate, said. “We also found that test-optional policies generally increased the size and diversity of applications for admission, without compromising later retention and graduation rates.”
A 2018 study from the National Association for College Admission Counseling showed that schools that switched to a test-optional application process saw an increase in the number of Black and Latino applicants and admittances.
Students who choose not to submit test scores will have the other aspects of their application, such as GPA, extracurriculars and the rigor of coursework emphasized more, McCloud said.
“When reviewing all applications for admission, Seton Hall will take a holistic approach and take into consideration all aspects of the student’s record with a heavy emphasis on the student’s academic record in high school, specifically looking at grades, academic rigor and class rank if available,” she said.
Students who choose to apply to Seton Hall without submitting their test scores will still be eligible for scholarships, the Honors Program and the Buccino Leadership Institute, according to McCloud.
“There are students who may not feel as if the SAT/ACT accurately or comprehensively reflect their skills or potential,” freshman political science major Anabel Pierre said. “Maybe the next class of Seton Hall will have more students who feel confident in their decision to attend and higher graduation rates.”
Farina said the University plans to evaluate how students perform under these new standards and reevaluate its decision in 2026.
Rylee Nelson can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org