Sticking with test-optional admissions at Ohio Northern


ADA — A test-optional admissions policy adopted by Ohio Northern University in the wake of the coronavirus pandemic may become the norm for the university, which is not requiring applicants to submit their SAT or ACT scores for the fall semester.

ONU was one of hundreds of colleges and universities to adopt test-optional admissions criteria in 2020, as pandemic restrictions limited student access to standardized testing, further accelerating the shift in higher education away from standardized testing in admissions.

Instead, universities like ONU are looking at grade point averages, extracurricular participation, the number of college credits earned in high school and the overall rigor of a student’s high school curriculum in lieu of SAT or ACT scores to determine admission.

“There are very few schools that are requiring standardized tests for admissions any longer,” said Bill Eilola, vice president of enrollment management at ONU. “I don’t see many going back to it. It really allows us to look at a lot of other factors to determine a student’s preparation and readiness to be successful in college.”

At Bluffton University, applicants who maintained at least a 3.0-grade point average in high school may apply without submitting their SAT or ACT scores, although standardized test scores are still required for admission to certain majors and competitive scholarships.

The shift away from standardized testing isn’t new for community colleges and regional campuses like The Ohio State University-Lima, which has never required SAT or ACT scores for admission.

“Our mission is open access to the university,” said Bryan Albright, assistant dean of learning and student engagement at OSU-Lima.

Students who graduate from an Ohio high school are automatically admitted once they apply, Albright said, and may transfer to the main campus in Columbus after they complete 30 credit hours, so long as they maintain a minimum 2.0 GPA.

“We find that it’s certainly helping more students to look at ONU and consider applying for admission,” Eilola said, “recognizing that the quality of education and not necessarily the standardized tests playing as big a role in the admissions decision.”

Nearly half of all applicants to ONU this year applied under the test-optional program, Eilola said, an increase from the 40% of students who applied without submitting test scores last school year.

Students may still submit their SAT or ACT scores to determine placement in math or English courses, Eilola said, and students applying to the university’s pharmacy, engineering and science programs are the most likely to send their scores.

But the university relies heavily on other criteria like how well students did in their college-credit plus courses in high school, which “give us a good indication of the students’ ability to be successful in college courses,” Eilola said.

ONU is evaluating the success of its test-optional admissions policy each year to determine whether it had any effect on admissions, student performance or retention, Eilola said.

“Everybody gets the opportunity to test the (SATs) while they’re in high school,” Eilola said, “but then if you want to retake it, you may have to pay for that. And sometimes it’s subject to you improving your score with some coaching and preparatory classes, and those cost money.”

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