Starting in fall 2024, the University of Dallas will be officially switching back to mandatory SAT/ACT/CLT testing after almost three years of optional testing.
Dr. John Plotts, executive vice president of enrollment, said: “We are reinstating the requirement of an SAT/ACT as we had done previous to COVID. We suspended this requirement during COVID because of limited access to the ACT/SAT test.”
The mandatory testing is being reinstated not only because of the decreasing severity of COVID-19, but also because the tests provide a fuller picture of incoming applying students.
The test requirement is not intended as a gatekeeping device, according to Carey Christenberry, director of undergraduate admission and enrollment. “[Mandatory testing] is just another data point that we can use to really help discern if students will be successful here,” he said. On some occasions, it can also benefit students who may not have the best transcript, but have excellent test scores.
Testing also provides a fuller picture of the reliability and validity of GPA. Christenberry said: “GPA is non standardized, and because they vary from school district to school district and even school to school, it’s very difficult to trust a GPA completely. And so that’s why we need a letter of recommendation and that’s why we require an essay, etc.”
Having more metrics to evaluate prospective students by is always an advantage in the admissions process for UD. “All the aspects of an application give us all the information we need to try to make the best judgment possible about a student’s potential here. Again, the key is to just make sure that we’re not doing a student a disservice by admitting a student who is not fully prepared for what UD offers,” Christenberry said.
Admissions numbers are catching up to pre-COVID-19 numbers, although they are falling behind numbers from recent years. Currently, there are 180 deposited students incoming for Fall 2023.
Christenberry said: “There’s no question that there are a variety of factors that have impacted our last two years of enrollment. And our goal is to actually keep pace with the last two years, but currently, we are behind where we were the last few years.”
There is a long-term plan to have an annual freshman class of around 450 with an overall undergraduate student enrollment of 1600. According to current information, the incoming class will likely consist of about 400 students.
Christenberry said: “At this point it seems that we’ll be back more in line with that of 2019-2020. We’re going to be somewhere between hopefully 370 and 400. But again, that’s speculative. We’ll have to wait and see.”
There is also a question of whether or not mandatory testing will have a significant impact on admissions numbers.
Plotts said: “While there is not enough data available to answer, there is an assumption that it would only account for a difference of 5% in the freshman class numbers.”
The estimates say that the switch shouldn’t change the admissions numbers too much. A deciding factor will be the students and their relationship to testing.
Christenberry said: “Some people are going to love it, and they’re going to really relish the fact that we are going back to SATs. Some students still take pride in their SAT or ACT or CLT scores. They put in the effort, they study for it, [and] they feel it reflects their quality as a student. And so that group of students is going to be really happy that we’re reinstating it.”
Of course, test scores don’t always tell the whole story. Statistics show that test scores are not the best predictor of collegiate success.
Christenberry said: “Typically the level of rigor that a student handles during high school — whether that’s AP, IB, or just a really great rigorous school — is more indicative of what a student will accomplish in a classroom here at UD.”
While UD is making the switch, testing in general has been falling out of social favor for a myriad of reasons.
Christenberry said: For political reasons, educational reasons, social reasons, many people are avoiding test scores because they feel like it’s a limited view of a student. So because there has been a falling out of test scores, it’ll be interesting to see how that impacts our enrollment next year.”
There is also the question of how the test scores should impact merit scholarships. Students who score well on the SAT — particularly in the 1400-1500 range — typically desire a reward for their performance.
Christenberry said: “It is likely that the scholarship will be impacted by the SAT score, which again, rewards students that have really great transcripts and have really good test scores. And so there is that value to it. And in the end, the idea of a merit scholarship is to reward those most meritable.”
Christenberry stressed that the admissions office wants what’s best for the student. “The one focal point is that, from an admission standpoint, our desire is to bring in students who know who we are and who want what we have,” he said. Standardized test scores are valuable as an admission metric so long as they help to select students who are truly a good fit for UD.