Beginning in fall 2019, Southwestern will implement a test-optional admission policy that allows eligible prospective students to choose whether to submit standardized test scores with their application. The university joins the more than 1,000 accredited colleges and universities across the U.S. that already employ test-optional or test-flexible admission practices.

The change in policy will help open doors for many students while also assuring that lower or missing test scores will not prevent students from considering applying to SU. “The goal of our admission process has always been to take a holistic look at applicants and admit high-achieving students who are the right fit,” says Vice President for Strategic Recruitment and Enrollment Tom Delahunt. “The test-optional opportunity ensures that applicants are able to showcase strengths and attributes that test scores cannot reflect.”

The university has traditionally evaluated applicants for admission holistically, meaning that even in current review practices, SAT and ACT scores are just one aspect of a student’s profile under consideration; admission counselors also take into account many other factors, including academic rigor, writing samples, recommendation letters, and extracurricular participation and leadership. That holistic approach will remain the same, but the new test-optional approach will benefit students by allowing them to better curate their applications: a prospective who has performed well on standardized tests can choose to submit those scores whereas another student can provide evidence of achievement through other means, such as high-school grades, community service, induction into honor societies, and engagement in student organizations.

Moreover, the test-optional policy supports Southwestern’s equal-opportunity mission of recruiting and admitting a diverse body of students without regard to sex, race, color, religion, age, disability, national or ethnic origin, sexual orientation, gender identity/transgender status, or any other impermissible factor. Critics of standardized tests have long argued that the SAT and ACT are discriminatory and that students’ scores often reflect the students’ economic backgrounds and access to resources rather than their academic ability. Many education experts have also argued that standardized tests do not accurately predict students’ preparedness for or likelihood of graduating from college.

When submitting to Southwestern, all first-year prospective students except international and home-schooled applicants can choose the test-optional path. Students who choose to submit their standardized test scores will be considered on equal footing with those who do not. Students who do not submit test scores will participate in an interview with an admission counselor.

Questions about the new policy and about Southwestern’s application process more generally can be directed to the SU Office of Admission.