Fordham’s Test-Optional Policy Should Be Here to Stay


Fordham University recently announced that it would extend its test-optional policy for another year after having the policy for two years during the pandemic. (Courtesy of Pia Fischetti/The Fordham Ram)

Fordham University recently announced that it would extend its test-optional policy for another year after having the policy for two years, beginning during the 2020 application season. If someone asked me what my stance on test-optional policies was a year ago, I probably would have argued against the policy. But now, as a freshman who just endured the chaotic and competitive world of college admissions, I view these test-optional policies as crucial. 

Like my peers, I remember frantically filling out the Common Application and anxiously writing supplemental essays for the 16 colleges on my list. I spent hours laboring over the math section of my ACT practice book late into the night, relying heavily on caffeine to keep me awake. It was the fall of my senior year and I wanted to spend Friday nights at Homecoming games, not writing the 10th draft of my personal statement. 

In 2020, some colleges began announcing they were making SAT and ACT test scores optional. I viewed this as a natural decision. Most students were still in lockdown, and many testing centers were closed. However, COVID-19 restrictions in Florida were generally looser at the time, which meant I was able to take both the SAT and ACT. 

I found that the ACT aligned more with my strengths and I chose to dedicate my time to improving that score. But there came a certain point where I began to ponder, “Why am I wasting my time practicing for a standardized test when so many other people are simply not going to send their scores to colleges?” I thought all of my strenuous efforts would feel worthless if colleges began to admit students with no test scores over a student like me who went the extra mile.

I ended up submitting my ACT score to most of the colleges I applied to, including Fordham. Admittedly, I grew nervous. I thought it was unfair to the students who earned high scores on these exams to be placed on the same playing field as those who did not. But it was wrong and inconsiderate of me to think in this way.

Many people who chose to not submit test scores were either unable to take these tests or did not perform to the best of their abilities. High school students fall into two categories: good test takers and bad test takers. Bad test takers should have the opportunity to prove themselves elsewhere — one’s grades and high school performance over four years should always be valued higher than a numerical score from a three-hour exam. 

I recently stumbled upon Jeannine Lalonde, an associate dean of undergraduate admission at the University of Virginia who regularly posts content on her blog and TikTok account (@uvadeanj) with the goal of helping prospective applicants navigate the process. Lalonde says that she does not need to see a test score in order to make a good decision on an application. 

This shift toward test-optional policies is not to say that high scorers should not be applauded for their achievements, because they rightfully deserve recognition for their scores. I am only expressing that one number should not define a person’s ability to succeed at a particular institution. 

As a matter of fact, I have several friends who were admitted to prestigious institutions this past year without test scores, including Vanderbilt University and Washington University. 

Carolina Alvarado, a freshman at Vanderbilt, believes other components of her application made her stand out to admissions officers. Among many of her impressive achievements, Carolina launched The Alvarado Project, which was geared toward helping teachers get the necessary support to continue teaching virtually during the pandemic. This is the type of engagement that competitive universities are looking for, perhaps putting less weight on standardized testing.

“I think colleges should keep the [test-optional] policy because it allows students who have strengths in other areas to shine through and let their other qualities prevail,” Alvarado says. 

Aside from class grades and test scores (if submitted), top colleges like Washington University are paying closer attention to extracurricular involvement, personal essays and qualities, service and recommendations to make their admission decisions, qualities which ultimately shape their incoming classes. Prioritizing accepting a class of students who scored perfectly on their exams does not sound nearly as interesting as cultivating a class of those with a variety of backgrounds, passions and goals. 

Test scores are no longer needed as a measure of evaluating the worthiness of an application. These standardized measures of “intelligence” tend to be unreliable and easily manipulated, as the Netflix documentary “Operation Varsity Blues” notably exposed. Test-optional policies have the potential to empower applicants. Fordham’s choice to remain test-optional in their admissions process is a step in the right direction if they want to attract students who bring more to Fordham than just a number. 

Luis Roldan, GSB ’26, is undeclared from Winter Park, Fl.