Female student working on computer

CWRU leaders authorize “test-optional” admissions for students entering in fall 2021

University acts in response to SAT/ACT testing cancellations

In response to standardized test cancellations amid the COVID-19 pandemic, Case Western Reserve University on Wednesday adopted a “test-optional” admissions policy for students entering in the fall of 2021.

Richard Bischoff, the university’s vice president for enrollment management, advocated for the change given the ongoing uncertainty about when ACT/SAT testing would resume. He and his staff were seeing growing anxiety among students, parents and counselors.

“We would rather students focus as best they can on their academic subjects rather than worrying about the SAT or ACT,” Bischoff said. “Testing has always been just one factor in our evaluation of applications, and we are confident that we will continue to make quality admission decisions for those students who are either unable to test or who choose not to submit test scores.”

“Test-optional” means scores on standardized tests, such as the SAT or ACT, aren’t required for a high school student to be considered for admission. Most selective colleges and universities, including Case Western Reserve, require applicants to submit an ACT or SAT score.

On Monday, the organizations that offer those tests cancelled spring administrations because of health and safety concerns related to COVID-19.

After university President Barbara R. Snyder and Provost Ben Vinson III quickly endorsed Bischoff’s proposal, it went before faculty leaders this week. On Wednesday, the Faculty Senate Committee on Undergraduate Education (FSCUE) unanimously approved the measure.

“These scores have always made up just a portion of our evaluation of prospective students, and we don’t want our future applicants to feel hamstrung by circumstances far outside their control,” said Peter Shulman, associate professor of history and chair of FSCUE. “Test score or no test score, we look forward to meeting the class of 2025.”

The Faculty Senate’s leadership body was so enthusiastic about the measure on Wednesday that its vote authorized Bischoff to announce the change on Wednesday—even before it proceeded to the full senate.

“I think the decision kind of puts us ahead of the curve in that high school juniors who are looking to apply to schools can really focus on their work and let their records speak for themselves rather than stressing about test scores and wondering how this all shakes out,” said David Miller, an associate professor at the Jack, Joseph and Morton Mandel School of Applied Social Sciences and president of the university’s Faculty Senate. “It’s indicative of our faculty taking the initiative quickly and responsibly.”  

With this new policy, no student applying to enroll in the fall of 2021 is required to submit a standardized test score, and students without such a test will face no penalty. Students still can choose to submit their scores.

Bischoff said the university will assess policies for future classes this coming winter.

For more information, contact Bill Lubinger at: william.lubinger@case.edu.