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Washington Post cites Catawba’s standardized test optional policy

Catawba College News Service

Catawba College is making news for being among 181 ranked institutions of higher education with a standardized test optional policy.  Catawba was included in a recent Washington Post blog titled “A list of 180+ ranked schools that don’t require ACT or SAT scores for admissions.”

The “ranked schools” designation refers to the institutions’ inclusion in the 2015 edition of U.S. News & World Report “Best Colleges” Guide.  Catawba was ranked 16th among the Best Regional Colleges in the South in that edition.

According to this Washington Post article, Catawba is among more than 850 accredited, bachelor-degree granting schools (out of more than 3,000 in the U.S.) that has dropped “its requirement that most freshman applicants must submit SAT or ACT scores for admissions purposes.”

The article notes that “this list was compiled and is maintained by the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, known as FairTest, a non-profit that works to prevent misuse and abuse of standardized tests.”

In February 2013, Catawba launched a pilot program to make standardized tests optional in its admissions process. At that time, Catawba officials noted that “standardized tests can be a double-edged sword for colleges and universities. They may cause some institutions to rule out perfectly capable students, or students to rule themselves out because of failing to meet a minimum test score requirement.”

Then Vice President of Enrollment Lois Williams explained, “At Catawba, curriculum and grades, coupled with extracurricular activities, writing ability, and evidence of character and creative talent continue to be the best evaluative measures for admission decisions.”

Fast forward two years, and Williams’ successor as vice president of enrollment, Cindy Barr, says, “After tracking the progress of students admitted via the test optional admissions program, we are more convinced than ever that our students should not be defined by their test scores. We are confident in their ability to thrive in the classroom and contribute to the Catawba community. The pilot program is now a standard offering in the admission process.”

Catawba continues to see growth in the number of students applying via the test optional admissions program. Approximately 17 percent of Catawba’s applicants for fall 2015 were considered for admission via the test optional program. The average high school grade point average for enrolling test optional students has risen by .32 points in the two years since the program’s inception, with this year’s average high school GPA at 3.96.

Since the program is still fairly new, the college continues to watch the retention trends of students admitted via the test optional admissions program, and is pleased with the recent 86 percent persistence rate of students from freshmen year to sophomore year.

While the majority of test optional applicants are students from North Carolina, approximately 5 percent are from other states. The variety of high schools represented in the test optional admissions program is similar to that of the traditional applicant pool. Incoming freshman with a 3.25 high school grade point average or higher are eligible to apply for admission under Catawba’s test optional program.

Catawba admissions staff recommend students sit for at least one standardized test. While test scores have no bearing on the admission decision or merit scholarship award for test optional applicants, Catawba faculty advisers do use test scores in conjunction with completed high school coursework for placement in some freshmen courses. Students admitted via the test optional program will need to provide official standardized test scores prior to enrollment.

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