Jayden Hoksbergen – Staff Writer
Starting at the beginning of the coming academic year, Dordt University will trial a new policy which makes standardized tests like the ACT or SAT optional for incoming students from an accredited United States high school.
Students with a high school GPA of 3.2 or above will have the option to apply without a test score. Students with a GPA below 3.2 will also have the option to apply without a test score, but the process will look different for them.
After applying, a provisional admissions committee will assess the student in order to ensure that he or she will do well at Dordt. The team will look at high school transcripts, and they might ask an old teacher for a reference. Dordt will also require a test on campus to determine which classes the student will have to take. International and homeschooled students will still need test scores to complete the admissions process.
Greg Van Dyke, director of admissions at Dordt, said that a large factor in the decision for this new policy is access issues due to COVID-19.
“The ACT has been cancelled across the country, so students haven’t been able to take it,” he said.
Dordt University was one of the few places in the country where the ACT was offered this July. Students came from a large radius, including Minneapolis and Des Moines, to take the test. But due to new regulations, even Dordt had to cancel the scheduled September ACT.
Van Dyke also said that there has been a push in recent years for test-optional application.
“It’s something that we were looking at already, but then COVID sped it up,” he said. “A test score doesn’t define who you are.”
Ryan Zonnefeld, a professor of Education at Dordt, added to that idea, saying that the trend in education is to look at standardized testing with a more critical eye.
“How does it really reflect learning rather than just random knowledge?” is a question he thinks educators need to consider about standardized tests.
Whereas Zonnefeld agrees that standardized testing does not show the whole picture of the student, he thinks that Dordt should continue to use the tests in the future if the pandemic allows for it.
“It is a benchmark that has been effective,” he said.
Van Dyke said that Dordt likes the assessment and has kept it for so many years not because it is a barrier for entrance, but because it’s beneficial to see how faculty and staff can best help students. However, he thinks that not having an ACT score might be a good thing for students, because it ensures that the faculty and staff get to know the student better.
Although this is the first year of Dordt’s official test-optional application, there have always been exceptions to test score rules. In the past, Dordt has taken students with lower test scores than what the official admissions standards require. These students had to be approved by the provisional admissions committee, and then they were admitted into Dordt’s Aspire program to ensure that they were given the tools to excel in college. This proves that test-optional applications can work.