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Why the University of Chicago Is Dropping Its SAT/ACT Test Requirement

University of Chicago is the latest in a series of higher education facilities that will no longer require ACT or SAT scores from its applicants.

While many schools have decided to make the tests optional in recent years, the University of Chicago is the first top-10 research university to do so. Nevertheless, the change will only apply to U.S. students—those applying from overseas will still be required to submit test scores.

James Nondorf, the university’s dean of admission and financial aid, explained to The Washington Post that “testing is not the be-all and the end-all,” saying that he didn’t want “one little test score” to scare off students who are otherwise qualified.

Supporters say dropping the test requirement is intended to encourage more disadvantaged students to apply, thereby providing wider access. However, skeptics suggest that going test-optional allows schools to effectively artificially inflate their rankings.

Typically, only students who receive high scores on the tests will submit them in a test-optional setting, thereby increasing the average test scores for the school. Without the test requirement, more students may be emboldened to apply to a school that previously seemed out of reach, which will in turn also lower admission rates and make the school appear more selective.

University of Chicago’s Nondorf, meanwhile, contends that the initiative will simply serve to “level the playing field” for first-generation and low-income students. “We want to remove any policy or program that we have that advantages one group of students over the other,” he said.

More than 1,000 accredited, four year colleges and universities are now test-optional, including Bates College, Pitzer College, and Wesleyan University.