New Test-Optional Policy Helped Shape More Diverse Freshman Class

GW Today, November 21, 2016

The decision not to require SAT or ACT scores for most students applying for admission at the George Washington University has led to the most diverse freshmen class in the university’s history.

Among students who entered as freshmen in fall 2016, the university saw a 33 percent increase in students from underrepresented minority groups. This population makes up 20.2 percent of this year’s freshman class, compared with 14.9 percent of last year’s freshmen.

“We adopted our test-optional policy to diversify an already outstanding applicant pool by reaching out to exceptional students who have been underrepresented at selective colleges and universities,” said George Washington President Steven Knapp.  “Our experience this first year under the new policy would seem to validate that approach.”

More than 25,550 undergraduate students applied to enter GW in fall 2016, an unprecedented 29 percent increase in applications over the previous year. Of the applicants, 21 percent opted to take advantage of GW’s test optional policy.

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One element that influenced GW’s decision to adopt a test-optional admissions policy was a concern that outstanding, academically talented students who did not earn high scores on the SAT or ACT may have felt discouraged from applying. At the same time, studies have indicated that a sustained commitment to a rigorous course of study and exceptional performance in high school academic course work are the best indicators of how a student will fare in college.

In this first-year class after the test-optional policy, there are 84 percent more African-American freshmen over the previous year’s class, with 8.8 percent representation compared to 4.7 percent last year.

Other minority groups saw population increases as well. Hispanic student enrollment rose by 11 percent (10.5 percent of the class versus 9.2 percent last year).

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