Elon University to pilot test-optional admissions process

Beginning with the selection of the university’s Class of 2025, prospective students can decide whether to submit standardized test scores as part of their applications.

Elon University is piloting a change to its undergraduate admissions process to give prospective students a choice about whether to include scores from the SAT or ACT tests as part of their applications for admission.

The three-year pilot test-optional program will apply to applicants seeking to enter Elon in the fall of 2021, who would continue to submit materials such as their academic records and an essay as part of the application process. At the conclusion of the pilot, the university will evaluate student success at the university and determine if the change will become permanent. In piloting this change, Elon seeks to mitigate the disruption from testing cancellations this spring and in the future due to the COVID-19 pandemic, while recognizing that other factors such as high school GPA serve as better predictors of college success than standardized test scores.

“By becoming test-optional, the university is eliminating a barrier that many qualified students now face because of not being able to take the SAT,” said Greg Zaiser, vice president for enrollment. “Making this change will accommodate students during a period of considerable uncertainty. Further, it refines the dynamic process the university uses to select students who are best positioned for success.”

“Stay-at-home” orders and social distancing requirements led to the cancellation of SAT and ACT tests scheduled from March through June, and it’s unclear whether future testing dates will be impacted as well. The cancellations came during the spring, a popular time for high school juniors to take the test. For fall 2020 admission, half of applicants to Elon had taken a standardized test in the spring of their junior year in high school.

Elon continuously examines and evaluates its admissions process so it can continue to attract a diverse and qualified pool of applicants. In 2017 Elon joined The Coalition for College to streamline the application process for more students. In 2019, the university became a member of the Common Application, the leading college application platform with more than 900 member institutions.

When the Office of Admissions evaluates applications, standardized test results have been just one part of a process that also takes into account the rigor of a student’s high school curriculum and academic performance, extracurricular activities and an essay. Elon’s Office of Institutional Research has gathered data that demonstrates how a student performs in certain high school courses is the greatest predictor of academic success at Elon.

“This is an opportunity to ease the anxieties many prospective students and families are experiencing during this time of disruption while continuing to enhance Elon’s admissions process,” Zaiser said.