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No to SATs/ACTs: Not Even Optional

A Hampshire College Student Reading

Hampshire was among the first schools in the country to be test optional, a policy the College has followed since opening in 1970. While Hampshire has never required SATs or ACTs, in the past we would review these scores if a student wished to submit them as part of an application. As of 2014, we haven't even accepted them; we are entirely test blind in our admissions process.

Hampshire’s decision reflects concern for fairness in access to educational opportunity. It is also consistent with Hampshire’s mission and academic philosophy. Fairness in access is particularly important at Hampshire, a college with a reputation for social justice concerns and a mission that includes inspiring students “to contribute to knowledge, justice, and positive change in the world.”

Standardized tests more accurately reflect family economic status than potential for college success. That they can pose racial, class, gender, and cultural barriers to equal opportunity is now widely understood, and the National Center for Fair and Open Testing lists more than 1,080 colleges and universities that are SAT and ACT optional.

Many colleges base financial aid awards largely or partly on test scores, and financial aid should be used to support students who most need assistance, not to reward those who are simply good test takers. Our scholarship aid is meant to reward consistently strong academic performance that is complemented by attributes such as leadership, community engagement, and exceptional creativity. Discipline, passion, and dedication to learning cannot be discerned from a test score.

Another factor in being test blind is Hampshire’s commitment to authentic assessment. Students receive detailed narrative evaluations from professors rather than letter grades. Each student works closely with faculty to create a rigorous personalized course of study, culminating in a yearlong final project. Classroom discussions, extensive written work, and completed projects are evaluated, but not through the use of “tests” in the traditional sense.

Tests have never been part of Hampshire’s pedagogy, so why would we use a test to determine which students would thrive here? Students’ high school academic records, their history of civic engagement, their letters of recommendation from mentors, and their ability to represent themselves through their essays mean much more than a test score can tell us.

A Hampshire education requires students to persevere, take intellectual and creative risks, and work hard. We examine applications for evidence of academic achievement, engagement, and passion for learning as well as for the habits and behaviors that will lead to success at the College.

FAQs about Hampshire’s Test Blind Admission Policy

If you are not looking at standardized test scores, what ARE you looking at?

The transcript plays a central role in our application review. We seek evidence of a rigorous college prep program, consistent high academic achievement, disciplined work habits and a willingness to be challenged. Also, we look carefully at essays, letters of recommendation, and interviews, which are strongly encouraged. Finally, we are very interested in activities outside of the classroom including those involving collaboration, community engagement, leadership, and/or work experience. As you can see, we have plenty to consider beyond standardized test scores.

What is the difference between Hampshire’s test blind policy and the more common test-optional policy?

Unlike ‘test-optional’ institutions, we will not consider SAT/ACT scores regardless of the score. Even if it’s a perfect score, it will not weigh into our assessment of an applicant. Many colleges have adopted test-optional policies to compensate for the gender, class, racial, and ethnic biases that have been found with standardized testing. In this case students can decide whether or not to have them considered as part of their application. We are test-blind because we found through our own internal research that in addition to being biased, these standardized tests are poor predictors of success at Hampshire.

Will Hampshire still consider AP, IB, and subject test scores?

If submitted, yes. AP, IB, and subject test scores are intended to measure achievement rather than aptitude. They are content-specific and thus they often factor into decisions to grant a student advanced standing upon matriculation. They can also be an indicator of rigor and a student’s willingness to be challenged outside the norm.

I am a home school student and I have been told by some that standardized tests are one of the few ways I can effectively demonstrate my skills. How will you consider my application in the absence of test scores and a traditional transcript?

We would strongly encourage that you build a portfolio with examples of your actual work. Furthermore we would put extra weight in your essays, recommendations, and activities. Finally, we would strongly encourage an interview as another means of giving the admission committee as complete a picture as possible in order to make an informed decision.

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