Five College News Brief: Mt. Holyoke study supports SAT-optional policy, suggests that admission tes

The study, which the college is citing as a vindication of its four-year old policy, was funded by a $290,000 grant from the Mellon Foundation. In making the SAT optional, Mt. Holyoke “committed to casting a wider net for applicants with strong academic potential and exceptional talent who may have been previously discouraged from applying because of their performance on the SAT,” according to the site. College officials say that the study reaffirms its claim that the SAT has limited value as a predictor of an individual student’s academic success in college.

The study reveals a 0.1 disparity between the grade point averages of students who chose to submit SAT scores and those who did not. Submitters have the numerical edge, which is approximately equivalent to one letter grade in a single course over one year of study, according to the Mt. Holyoke Web site.

“The fact is that the SAT does not add enough value for us to require students and their families to make such a large investment of time, energy and money in this single, high-stakes test,” said Jane Brown, vice president for enrollment and college relations at Mt. Holyoke, according to the site. “We would encourage high school students to focus instead on activities that promote long-term intellectual and personal growth rather than on time-consuming and often expensive strategies to raise their SAT scores.”

The interim results of the study also prove that there is a direct correlation between income and the likelihood of a student’s exposure to SAT classes or private tutoring, according to the site. According to the study, more than two-thirds of prospective students from higher-income families took an SAT prep course, and one-third had private tutors.

Mt. Holyoke officials downplayed the significance of the new SAT format, which was introduced this month and features a writing section. “This test is a formulaic writing exercise and is likely to be quite coachable,” Brown said, according to the site. The ongoing study includes an analysis of admission data, a survey of applicants and the use of focus groups.