As the COVID 19 pandemic kept schools closed for the better part of the entire year and disrupted the studies of students across the country, many public universities made submitting SAT and Act scores optional for students applying during the 2020 and 2021 admissions cycles.

Now Washington State University has joined the growing trend of doing away with the requirement altogether. The WSU Board of Regents also recommended to remove SAT/ACT scores as criteria for scholarships and tuition waivers.

Provost and Executive Vice President Elizabeth Chilton said in a press release that “other metrics, including grade point average, provide better insight into a potential student’s success”. Part of Chilton’s presentation to the Board of Regents included data gathered from the university itself that showed that six year graduation and first year retention rates are higher for students with a high school GPA above 3.5 than for a student that scores above 1200 on the SAT.

It can be a challenge for universities to roll out such key decisions and make those decisions widely known to the people who need to know it most. When a school has optional tests, the ambiguity can cause more problems and confusion for staff and students. Saichi T. Oba, the Vice Provost of Enrollment Management at WSU, said in an interview, “At WSU, you do not need to sit for either exam since we do not use test results in determining how we select students for admission or scholarships and financial aid.”

WSU does not currently anticipate any new testing requirements in place of the SAT/ACT. For this past year, the WSU Admissions team used high school GPA, grade trends, courses taken, whether the student has fulfilled CADRS (minimum number of high school credits students must earn) and other factors like AP classes, college credit earned in high school, etc. For individuals that do not meet WSU’s automatic admissions criteria, experienced staff review and evaluate their applications.

This change was spurred on by the pandemic as students across the state faced wildly different school environments and lesson plans. It would be unfair to require students to provide important test scores after such an interruption. Even before the pandemic, there has been a push nationwide to abandon SAT and ACT scores from college requirements altogether, no matter the circumstances, as the implicit cultural bias that comes with standardized tests is becoming more well known. Oba explained how high-income students often have access to educational opportunities not available to low-income students, including expensive test prep tutoring. The College Board, who administers the SAT test, admits that these discrepancies make a difference.

In this way, WSU also hopes that this change will further align the university with their Land Grant mission. This mission, as explained by Oba, is to provide further access to higher education to residents of Washington and the Pacific Northwest.

When asked if these new requirements could potentially cause an overwhelming influx of students apply, Oba shared that it’s difficult to determine how many new students this decision could attract.

“Our thoughts lie more along the lines of – have we helped more students consider WSU? Have we made the process less complex, more inviting?” Oba said, “If we help more students find their path to WSU we will be prepared and welcome them to the Coug’ Family!”