By Angela Yang
Students hoping to start at Boston University in the fall of 2022 or the spring of 2023 — so, most likely current high school juniors — can choose not to submit standardized test scores with their application.
The recent decision is an extension of the test-optional admissions policy BU introduced last spring, in the wake of a pandemic that disrupted standardized testing procedures around the world.
This academic year is the first BU has seen a majority of applications without an SAT or ACT score. Of the nearly 76,000 applicants, almost 60% did not submit test scores, according to Kelly Walter, the dean of admissions at BU.
“It hasn’t changed our process very much, but it has allowed us to reimagine how we define academic achievement outside of a standardized test score,” she said. “Our admissions process has always been comprehensive. And so we have considered all aspects of a student’s application, not just test scores. They never drove our process.”
Walter said this change will increase the diversity of the incoming class, because it has become “very, very clear” to the BU Admissions team that its review of an applicant should not be limited to statistical factors. Instead, the composition of the Class of 2025 will be shaped more heavily by students’ educational, cultural, linguistic, geographical and racial backgrounds.
“There’s absolutely no doubt that the composition of our applicant pool has changed significantly in this test-optional environment,” Walter said. “We have more applications from students and underrepresented groups. So I think this is really exciting when I look forward to the students that will be enrolling at BU this fall.”
Even before this policy was put in place, some prospective BU students were able to apply without submitting test scores — that’s because some programs don’t require them
Rozime Lindsey, a second-year music major in the College of Fine Arts, said he feels his test scores did not determine his ability to succeed in college.
“We’re coming to college for music,” Lindsey said. “We should be based off the thing we’re coming here to do. So I did not submit my test scores.”
In his opinion, all a test score signifies is that an applicant knows how to take a test.
“It’s funny, because I am taking HUB classes mainly with people who scored perfectly on their SATs,” Lindsey said. “When I’m next to you, we’re taking classes together, the same level class. It actually feels a little bit more comforting to know that I did not need a silly test score to be in a hard class.”
College of Engineering student Sophia Delia, now a second-year at BU, had grown up in a low-income community. She watched her peers shell out hundreds of dollars for SAT tutoring because her high school did not offer those services.
“If they wanted to get into college, they had to do some really hardcore preparation,” she said. “A regular public school wasn’t enough.”
Her friends who attended private schools, on the other hand, had a built-in SAT prep program at school. So by allowing test-optional admissions, Delia said, BU is no longer handing an extra advantage to those whose families could afford private educations or prep courses.
Delia calls herself “horrible” at taking exams. But, if she were applying to BU right now, she said she probably would still submit her test scores, because not doing so might be seen like an inherent admission that those scores weren’t impressive:
“I always heard that if a school was test-optional, you should submit your test scores because it makes you look better,” she said. “I always feel most comfortable when I take the safe bet. You can’t mess around and you can’t take any risks when you’re trying to get in.”
Delia said she thinks standardized tests are one way to measure how well a student does in school, as well as their ability to study for a test, but that the current system is flawed. Tests should not require students to cater to one specific skill set, she said.
“If Boston University truly wants to make itself a haven of learning where anyone, regardless of background, can be admitted to the school as they are a fit student to be at the school,” Delia said, “then the standardized test policy should be suspended indefinitely or permanently.”
BU re-evaluates its admissions requirements on an annual basis, according to Walter, so it will revisit its test-optional policy next year as well. By that time, she said, the University will have admitted students without test scores for two application cycles, which will allow it to assess how successful these students are at BU.
That means making test-optional admissions permanent at BU is a possibility. But for now, Walter said she doesn’t know for certain.
“Everything’s on the table right now,” she said. “Things are changing so quickly in higher education. And admissions is going to continue to change with that. We’re going to continue to watch the landscape.”