College Guide


May 24, 2012 11:00 AM Sarah Lawrence Goes Back to SATs

By Daniel Luzer

For years Sarah Lawrence College was one of the few schools in America that not only didn’t require applicants to submit SATs, but didn’t even look at them when considering students for admission.

So much for that; it’s decided to end the policy beginning with next year’s applicants. According to a statement from the school:

Beginning with the Fall 2013 application cycle, we will accept SAT and ACT test results from applicants who choose to submit them. The submission of standardized tests is optional. Along with your transcripts, test scores may provide additional evidence of your academic achievements and potential. However, Sarah Lawrence is committed to a holistic review process, and we know that standardized testing may not accurately reflect the potential and contributions of all students.

In 2005 SLC stopped collecting SAT scores from applicants. Since standardized test schools are essential to determining college rankings, however, evaluating the school proved difficult. And so U.S. News & World Report just made stuff up. According to a 2007 article by Sarah Lawrence President Michele Tolela Myers in the Washington Post:

I was recently informed by the director of data research at U.S. News, the person at the magazine who has a lot to say about how the rankings are computed, that absent students’ SAT scores, the magazine will calculate the college’s ranking by assuming an arbitrary average SAT score of one standard deviation (roughly 200 points) below the average score of our peer group.
In other words, in the absence of real data, they will make up a number.

For awhile Sarah Lawrence just said the hell with it and let U.S. News do what it wanted.

But this stance got a little difficult to maintain (college rankings are largely based on standardized tests; the schools and the rating agencies can come up with an alternative workaround measure, but it’s still not really reflective of what the school is all about). So they’re going back to test optional. “You will not be at a disadvantage,” the school explained, “should you choose not to submit your scores.”

Daniel Luzer is the news editor at Governing Magazine and former web editor of the Washington Monthly. Find him on Twitter: @Daniel_Luzer


  • Anonymous on May 24, 2012 7:40 PM:

    This blog post seems to me somewhat misleading about the step Sarah Lawrence College has taken, although perhaps this is inadvertent. Some prospective students simply wish to use standardized test scores to show their accomplishments -- for example, if they attend high schools where grading is tougher than at typical schools across the U.S., or if they had no access to an IB program but know they will compete for admission against IB students. This should not be misunderstood as the college's capitulation to ratings groups, including to the (ridiculously flawed) U.S. News rankings.

    Note that Sarah Lawrence College has continued to be in very high demand and has had no trouble reaching targeted enrollment, even absent a willingness to consider test scores. The college operates on an Oxford-style model unique in the U.S., which a number of gifted students find highly attractive.

  • Tyro on May 25, 2012 12:56 AM:

    The college operates on an Oxford-style model unique in the U.S., which a number of gifted students find highly attractive.

    Nevertheless, Sarah Lawrence continues to attract a rather mediocre student body.

    Sarah Lawrence's problem with not considering SAT scores was simply that it didn't have a strong enough academic reputation and demand from applicants to be in a position to abandon SAT scores as a consideration.

  • michty me on June 19, 2012 1:08 AM:

    You say, "Sarah Lawrence continues to attract a rather mediocre student body..." Given the absence of metrics that appears to have offended you, how did you measure that exactly?

    Incidentally, what is the gist of your second sentence? It's close to unintelligible, and almost certainly illogical. Which leads me to ask where you went to school?