The Quaker Campus

Whittier College goes test-optional for admission

The Quaker Campus

Leah Boynton

Whittier College has adopted a test-optional policy for those seeking admission for Fall 2017.

This policy will allow students with a GPA of a 3.0 or higher to apply to Whittier with the option to submit their SAT and ACT scores, or not.

According to Vice President of Enrollment Fred Pfursich, this is not a new conversation. “Actually [the policy has] been discussed for a number of years,” Pfursich said. “There’s been quite a trend the last five to ten years with lots of colleges nation-wide going test-optional. At Whittier, the conversation goes back at least seven or eight, maybe even 10 years.”

The proposal was brought forward to the Whittier College Faculty by Enrollment and Student Affairs Committee (ESAC), which is made up of faculty and staff members.

The final decision was made by the entirety of the faculty. “The faculty at Whittier College have ownership over admissions criteria,” Pfursich said. “[Faculty] have great investment and ownership over admission criteria. It couldn’t just be an administrative or admissions decision.”

Pfursich explained that there were several factors in making their final decision to go test-optional. “What is the true predictability of standardized testing on student success? What does the SAT or ACT really measure? That question has always been out there,” Pfursich said. “Why should a test that takes four hours on a Saturday morning have as much or greater impact on a student’s admissions portfolio compared to what that student does over four years in high school? We have a lot of students that are really good students in high school. Why should that one factor be such an important component of their admission to college?”

Whittier has decided to join the hundreds of colleges that have a test-optional policy, dating back to Bates College, that implemented their policy in 1984.

Over the course of 32 years since Bates adopted their policy, there have been no correlations between the success of those who submitted their test scores as opposed to those that didn’t.

The Office of Admissions wants to ensure that there is equal opportunity for all of their applicants. “There are several studies that show a direct correlation between family income and SAT scores. The only thing that the SAT or ACT scores measure is family income,” Pfursich said. “That has to do with family income resources, to prep courses, to have a tutor, to be able to take the test multiple times, to have parents who are educated who promote this early on, going to prep school, those kinds of things are the reason for the different scores.”

Another issue with standardized tests are how they favor certain groups of students. “The test has some built-in biases that disadvantage certain ethnic groups and minority students, particularly those of color,” Pfursich said. “White students on average perform better than students of color.”

“We’re not saying that the test is worthless or that we don’t think that students should take the test. All we’re saying is that students who are interested in applying to Whittier who have not done as well on the test as is reflected in their GPA or otherwise, we don’t want those students to be discouraged or think they’re mediocre,” Pfursich said. “We don’t want that test score to be an obstacle for them in admission.”

Pfursich believes that by implementing a test-optional policy, students will be put on a more equal playing field for admission. “I think there are equity and moral issues involved [in standardized testing]. The SAT favors students from high income, educated families. Students from lower income families or first-gen families have a disadvantage,” Pfursich said. “We have a lot of students who are first gen families or low income families. Since we have such a diverse student body we think it is perfectly in line with our mission statement and our sense of the many students that come to Whittier. This hopefully makes them believe that the door is open to them even if they haven’t done well on their SAT or ACT test.”