Leveling the Playing Field - Eliminating Standardized Testing Requirements

Institutions across the country are re-examining their admissions policies when it comes to standardized testing. While many are choosing to go test-optional, some are taking it one step further by completely eliminating the long-standing SAT and ACT score requirements for admission into their academic programs. Clarkson College is one such school.

The College has a specialized focus in health care education and when the opportunity arose to review their admissions process, they aimed to create a tailored approach that would best serve its unique student body. Their goal was to eliminate barriers affecting applicants and ensure that incoming students were set up for the best possible success.

The school achieved both of these goals by eliminating its ACT and SAT test score requirements for incoming students. The decision came after educators and student services team members performed extensive research during which they analyzed admissions, retention and graduation data from the past several years to gain an overall understanding of which type of students were successful at the College.

The research and data indicated that incoming students with a GPA of 3.5 or higher, specifically in math and science courses, achieved greater success at the institution and were more likely to be retained. Director of General Education and Associate Professor Lori Bachle helped conduct the research that examined the relationship between standardized tests such as the ACT and Health Education Systems Incorporated (HESI) exam and success at the College.  

“Since GPAs were just as or stronger at predicting success than the exams, we decided to discontinue using the tests and instead use GPAs to trigger student enrollment,” she says. “The decision was based on years of data review and the fact that we have ample support for students, such as tutoring and supplemental instruction, in place to ensure their continued success from the beginning of their enrollment.”

Research and data from outside the institution also reveals that standardized testing creates obstacles for certain socio-economic and minority groups. According to Clarkson College Director of Enrollment and Advising Ken Zeiger, M.S., removing the standardized testing barrier is the first step in creating a more equal admissions process and as a result, better prepared health care professionals. “ACT and SAT scores can be a barrier for students in terms of college admissions and scholarship,” he says. “I believe that removing those requirements will bring in a better prepared class of students for our health care programs.”

Breaking down barriers and making way for a more diverse and better prepared work force is crucial in all areas, but particularly in the health care field. This sector is experiencing a provider shortage, particularly in areas with underserved populations. Removing obstacles such as standardized testing is one way the institution is making efforts to counteract the issue and allow for a more diverse health care work force.

“The College believes in the opportunity for all students to pursue a career in health care,” Vice President of Academic Affairs of the College Andreia Nebel, P.T., D.P.T., FNAP, says. “Eliminating this barrier helps us further advance the workforce and achieve our Mission to prepare students to professionally provide high quality, ethical and compassionate health care services.”