June 03, 2020

Five years after making standardized test scores optional for admission to Catholic University, the Office of Undergraduate Admission announces that it will no longer consider test scores; it will be “test-blind.” SAT and ACT scores will no longer be considered for admission to the University, for the University Honors Program, or for merit-based scholarships.

This policy applies to all undergraduate applicants, including home-schooled and international candidates. International students whose native language is not English are still required to demonstrate English proficiency through the TOEFL or IELTS examinations.

Currently, only the California State System and a handful other institutions have adopted test-blind policies.

Under the test-optional policy, students were not required to submit SAT or ACT scores as part of their application, but they could choose to do so if they thought the results added value to their overall application. Among first-year applicants for fall 2020, roughly 43 percent did not submit a standardized test score with their application for admission.

“Over the past five years, our refinements in the application review and the depth of experience on the admission staff have demonstrated that the Committee on Admission is able to make effective admission decisions regardless of whether a standardized test score is available,” says Christopher Lydon, Vice President for Enrollment Management and Marketing.

The best evidence of this is the record first-year retention the University has experienced since the policy was implemented in 2015. The three test-optional entering classes where data is available averaged a first-year retention rate of 87.1%. The three previous test-required classes averaged a first-year retention rate of 83.8%.

“A perception also persists that at test-optional institutions, those who submit high test scores have an advantage over non-submitters,” added Lydon. “Moving to test-blind eliminates that perception.”

With the onset of the Covid-19 pandemic, the testing schedule for current high school juniors has been significantly compromised. Most SAT and ACT testing opportunities were canceled in March, April, May, and June. 

President John Garvey noted, “I appreciate the difficulties this current testing environment creates. While the SAT and ACT may be helpful in predicting success, for Catholic University,  we can make equally accurate decisions without them. I find that a persuasive argument for going test-blind.”

To make up for the canceled tests, there has been a rush to offer additional SAT and ACT testing dates in coming months. However, the availability of testing centers raises the concern that not all students who wish to take one of the tests will be able to do so. 

“The anxiety for students who may feel pressure to test multiple times in a short number of months is not in their best interests,” Lydon says. “This also creates additional challenges for students from disadvantaged backgrounds.”

In addition to their application, the depth of their high school curriculum, and classroom performance, the Committee on Admission also evaluates each candidate’s extracurricular profile, the required essay and Catholic University statement, academic and personal recommendations, and other pertinent information to select each entering class. 

The University eliminated the application fee in 2019 in another effort to assure access to all interested in pursuing a Catholic University education.