Schools consider criteria beyond ACT and SAT scores

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COLUMBIA - Colleges and universities around the nation are looking at students' qualifications outside of the traditional ACT and SAT scores. 

Test optional schools mean the applicant has the option to send in his or her test scores. William Jewell College in Liberty, Missouri and Columbia College are both test optional schools.

According to the William Jewell College admissions website, "William Jewell College believes in a holistic review of student credentials for admission. We believe – and research supports – that factors other than test scores are better indicators of potential for success in the classroom and the college community. Students with an outstanding record of academic achievement in a rigorous high school curriculum and demonstrated leadership and service in their community and school are the most successful test-optional applicants."

For test optional admission at William Jewell College, students also need at least a 3.0 GPA. However, students will need to submit test scores after they have been admitted so the William Jewell College staff can "can monitor the effectiveness of our program."

Columbia College has a similar test optional option allowing admission for students who graduate in the top 50 percent of their class or have 12 college prep work at a 2.5 GPA or higher.

If the school does not have a competitive class rank, students must have these 12 hours to be directly admitted without submitting test scores.

Stephanie Johnson is the director of admissions at Columbia College. She said she believes this test optional manner of acceptance is very beneficial to their students.

"A lot of schools have gone away from that which has actually been a benefit to our students for the most part. When class rank is not available, we look at college prep curriculum to see that those students have taken those twelve core classes in English, math, social sciences, etc. and that they've excelled in those," Johnson said.

Johnson recalled when she took the ACT and said that is one reason why she is glad Columbia College looks at other factors when considering students.

"You're a nervous wreck when you go in to take the ACT, and again a lot of students only take the test once. So, if you're only taking it once and you're a nervous wreck and you're going in to take this test. If you have test anxiety or learning disabilities there's a lot that goes into that one day's test results that impacts your college acceptance, scholarships," Johnson said. "That's a good reason that institutions should take other factors into consideration."

John McClure is a senior at Fulton High School. He said the whole ACT process was draining, but he believes the test was designed that way. He said he doesn't believe the tests are the best way to measure if someone is ready for college.

"I don't think it's really fair for them. I have a lot of friends who are really bright but just don't get good ACT scores because they're not good test takers," McClure said.

Northwest Missouri State University is a test flexible school that uses a formula to determine if a student will be admitted aside from just their test scores. The formula looks at GPA, class rank and test scores to determine if a person will be directly admitted to the university.

According to the MU admissions website, "Admission to Mizzou is selective. When considering you for admission, we look at your high school coursework and your scores on the ACT or the SAT."

As of 2015, there was only one school in the nation that took things a step further. Hampshire College in Amherst, Massachusetts is a test blind school, meaning it doesn't want test scores from any of its applicants.

According to its admissions website, Hampshire College asks for a completed Common Application, writing supplement, current transcripts, school report (including guidance counselor recommendation), and teacher letter of recommendation to be considered for admission.