FSU implements test-optional pilot

Designed by Andrew Willoughby

As part of a pilot program in conjunction with the Department of Higher Education (DHE), the University will not require incoming students to provide SAT/ACT scores.

The admissions department will now focus more heavily on cumulative high school GPA.

The minimum GPA requirement to be accepted to FSU is 3.0, according to the University website.

In 2017, the DHE offered select Massachusetts state institutions the opportunity to test the policy for admissions that fall. The pilot aimed to determine if the test scores traditionally submitted to universities should be made optional.

FSU has decided to participate in the pilot program beginning spring of 2019.

Jeremy Spencer, dean of enrollment management, spearheaded this effort and submitted a proposal to the voting members of the academic policies and all university committees in February of 2018. These governance panels vote on any policy change or addition.

The proposal contained a study which supported the omission of SAT/ACT scores for incoming students.

According to the study, the switch to a test-optional model benefits “underrepresented applicants with a weighted high school GPA below a 3.0.” The study further indicated that the minimum combined SAT score of 990 disproportionately impacted students in black and Hispanic communities.

Vincent Ferraro, sociology professor, conducted the study in fall 2017, using enrollment data from fall 2013 to fall 2016. The study concluded “weighted high school GPA was a statistically better predictor of success at the conclusion of the first-year.”

According to the University website, SAT/ACT scores are required for students interested in the STEM programs, potential honors students, or students who were homeschooled. 

President F. Javier Cevallos said with this transition, there will be a greater emphasis on the cumulative GPA of prospective students because “high school GPA is a much better predictor of academic success than the SAT.”

He said the SAT is “culturally biased” and doesn’t provide enough information about a prospective student’s academic history.

Cevallos added because not every student can afford to take SAT prep courses, or retake the exam itself, it favors students who come from more affluent backgrounds.

“A lot of students don’t have the money to be retaking the test. The SAT itself doesn’t try to create any inequity – the fact is that the more that you practice, the better you’re going to be. That’s just the way it is,” he said.

Cevallos added, “The SATs do measure some things. But, they are only a predictor and indicator and that is only one of the many ways we can measure the success of the students.”

Taylor Anderson, a sophomore and former orientation leader, works as an intern in the New Student and Family Programs office, formerly First-Year Programs. She said she thinks the switch to test optional will benefit students who do not test well. “More students who feel as though they’ll have a better chance of getting into a school, because it doesn’t focus so much on test scores, may apply at higher rates.”

Lorretta Holloway, vice president of enrollment and student development, said often the price of SAT tests as well as application costs prevents students from applying to the schools they aim to attend. “The college application process is stressful and expensive.

She added, “This will eliminate, for some students, the pressure of associating admission with a test score – particularly students who are low on funds.”

Hailee McDonald, a senior and former orientation leader, said this change will have a positive impact on more non-traditional students. “Their extracurriculars will hopefully get more recognition – so students can showcase what they really shine in and what they’re passionate about.”

She added, “I personally have seen students come into admissions who think they’re not going to get into schools because their test scores are low – capable students being discouraged by one test.”

Ayanna Ferguson, junior and student trustee, said, “Making FSU a test-optional school may allow prospective students who feel that their SAT scores may not be the best to feel more comfortable to apply, which may increase the number of students to come in the incoming class, which is important for us.”

She added, “A single test score shouldn’t hinder someone’s chances at an education if the field that they plan to go into may not even require you to have the best writing or math skills.”

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