No SAT/ACT required for ODU enrollment

Jordan Crawford | 6/24/2014, 3:03 p.m.
A pilot project being launched this fall will offer students with a strong academic record in high school a path to acceptance at Old Dominion University without ever taking a standardized admission test.

For students who suffer from test anxiety but somehow find time to excel academically, Old Dominion University has good news.

A pilot project being launched this fall will offer students with a strong academic record in high school a path to acceptance at ODU without ever taking a standardized admission test.

Applicants with a GPA of 3.3 or higher will not be required to take the SAT or the ACT – the tests that have served as a gatekeeper in college admissions for decades.

In admissions lingo, ODU is going “test-optional” for at least two years.

It’s part of a national trend. More than 800 colleges and universities now admit substantial numbers of applicants without SAT or ACT scores, according to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, an advocacy group.

ODU’s pilot program is intended to widen the university’s applicant pool, said Ellen Neufeldt, vice president for student engagement and enrollment services.

“We want to have the best level playing field for all our students,” she said. “We want to make sure they are successful.”

Standardized test scores are not as strong a predictor of success in college as high school GPAs, she said.

Moreover, test scores tend to correlate with family income, she said. Students from more well-to-do families, whose parents typically went to college, are more likely to take test preparatory classes and to take the tests multiple times, increasing their chances of a higher score.

By casting a broader net, the test-optional policy might increase the diversity of ODU’s student body, Neufeldt said.

That’s what happened at Wake Forest University, one of the first and most selective schools to adopt such a policy.

In Hampton Roads, the concept was pioneered by Christopher Newport University in Newport News, which went test-optional in 2007. There, applicants must have at least a 3.5 GPA or rank in the top 10 percent of their high school graduating class.

The policy has been a resounding success, said Robert Lange, CNU’s dean of admissions.

The university annually attracts about 8,000 applicants for 1,200 freshman slots, and roughly 20 percent of those accepted are admitted without benefit of an SAT or ACT score.

The record shows that those students’ academic performance is just as good as that of their peers who take the tests, Lange said. They typically have pursued a highly rigorous curriculum in high school, including multiple college-level courses.

“Some students just don’t test as well as others,” he said.

Virginia Wesleyan College in Norfolk was the next local school to adopt a test-optional policy, in 2010. Applications quadrupled in the first year after it was adopted, and the freshman class swelled by two-thirds.

George Mason University in Northern Virginia has a similar policy.

At ODU, administrators will monitor the success of the test-optional students for two years before deciding whether to make the policy permanent, Neufeldt said.

“We want to be sure we’re bringing motivated students to campus,” she said.

After delaying the decision for months because of a state budget stalemate, Old Dominion University will raise tuition and fees by about 5 percent for in-state undergrads next year.