Is Going Test-Optional a Game Changer for College Admissions? Holy Cross Admissions Director Talks About the College’s Bold Decision To Make the Switch In 2005

Admissions office door. Photo by Avanell Chang

Worcester Business Journal

Central Massachusetts colleges and universities are increasingly following a national trend of suspending the use of standardized test scores in evaluating applicants, in an effort to diversify their student bodies. What does that mean for applicants?

Ann McDermott '79, director of admissions at Holy Cross since 1994, told the Worcester Business Journal in a recent interview that this is a welcomed change. Since Holy Cross became one of the first five colleges nationally to make standardized test scores an optional part of the admissions process back in 2005, McDermott and her team have long thought students applying to college were typically better academically than their test scores would show. 

According to McDermott, standardized tests, such as the SAT or ACT, are not a good indicator of how likely it is for a student to be successful in college, and—most importantly—can lead to inequality concerns at a time when many colleges are seeking to create and promote opportunities for first-generation college students or those from disadvantaged backgrounds.

For McDermott, the 2005 decision reflected the College's highly personalized admissions practices, which already de-emphasized standardized test scores and focused instead on a prospective student's overall portfolio of academic experience. 

"Once we went forward [with the decision to go test-optional], it was sort of liberating," said McDermott.

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