President Mark D. Gearan announced Tuesday, June 6, that Hobart and William Smith Colleges will make standardized test scores, including the SAT, an optional part of their highly selective admissions process. The Colleges join a growing number of leading institutions that have limited the impact of SAT scores by making them a voluntary component of student applications for regular admission.
The shift comes at a time of academic strength for the Colleges. The Hobart and William Smith applicant pool has increased 35 percent over the past eight years, with a growing number of applicants making HWS their first choice. Scores on the SAT exam also have seen significant gains in the same period of time, increasing 32 points. In the past three years alone, students and recent graduates have received prestigious national and international academic honors, including a Gates Cambridge Scholarship, the Rhodes Scholarship, two Fulbright Scholarships and the Goldwater Award, and have been selected from highly competitive pools to serve in Teach for America and the Peace Corps.
The admissions review at HWS has been grounded more in the achievement of a student and his or her mastery of a subject — demonstrated through coursework — than his or her score on a test. Without receipt of standardized test scores, the Colleges’ admissions staff will continue to focus on high school transcripts, the strongest predictor of academic success, and other indicators that reflect a student’s abilities and successes over long periods.
“A close review of what we value the most in students showed that the SAT adds little to our assessment of curiosity, conscientiousness and critical thinking,” Gearan said. “At Hobart and William Smith Colleges, we have a process that allows us to know our applicants more fully than they typically are known at other schools. We consider student essays, personal interviews and parent recommendation letters. When we admit a student to Hobart and William Smith Colleges, we know the person. This modification in our admissions policy more fully acknowledges our approach.”
In addition to reviewing its own records, the Colleges also examined other institutions’ studies that find no difference in academic performance between those who submit SAT scores and those who choose not to submit. Graduation rates, academic grade point averages and career outcomes were among the statistics reviewed.
Vice President for Enrollment Don Emmons noted other considerations related to the decision, such as the Colleges’ commitment to equity and diversity. He cited the rapid growth of prep courses that have contributed to an unfortunate disparity in standardized testing results across the applicant pool and can significantly impact low-income students.
Emmons, Provost Teresa Amott and the faculty endorsed the move. “At Hobart and William Smith, our brightest students shine through their high school transcripts, while SAT scores turn out to be a much weaker predictor of future academic achievement in the Colleges’ rich learning environment,” said Amott.
Channel 13, WHAM from Rochester, had a story about the announcement on Tuesday, June 6. Read Most Colleges Still Want SATs.
The announcement was also featured in the on-line edition of Inside Higher Education. Read Quick Takes: Hobart Drops SAT.
News 8 Now, WROC from Rochester, featured a story about the change during a newscast on Tuesday, June 6. A video of the broadcast is available for QuickTime or Windows Media Player. The text of that segment is available at Hobart and William Smith Colleges make SAT optional for applicants.