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University makes SAT optional for new students

Applicants will now answer four short open-ended questions that will be graded by trained readers.

Applicants will no longer have to take the SAT or ACT in order to be accepted at Temple, the university announced today. This decision comes as part of a national trend, with Temple being one of the largest public research universities to change their policy.

Applicants will now have the ability to use the “Temple Option,” four standardized open-ended questions answered through TUportal with answers expected to be around 100-150 words. However, once committed to the Temple Option, applicants can’t change back to using their SAT or ACT scores.

According to university admissions, applicants are suggested to take the Temple Option if they scored below 1150 on the SAT or 25 on the ACT. The first class that this alternative will be available for is the freshman admitted for the Fall 2015 semester.

William N. Black, senior vice provost of enrollment management, said the idea evolved throughout the past year-and-a-half.

“It was clear to us that we needed to find another way to evaluate students’ potential,” Black said. “There are some students who may not have even applied after seeing our test score policy.”

The Temple Option will be available for admittance into the honors program as well. Black added that the effect this will have on financial aid is still being sorted out and will be released in the next 4-6 weeks.

Temple is one of many higher learning institutions in the Philadelphia area that no longer requires the SAT or ACT for admissions. Others include Susquehanna University, Dickinson College and Franklin and Marshall College.

Last fall, St. Joseph’s University opted out of requiring the nationwide tests, and Bryn Mawr College did the same last week. Overall, more than 800 bachelors-degree-offering schools give applicants the option to take the SAT or ACT.

According to the website of CollegeBoard, the organization that administers the SATs, “less than half of the students who take the SAT are college ready, and that statistic has remained constant over time.”

Due to the growing discontent with the SAT, CollegeBoard announced in March an overhaul of its test by Spring 2016. Reforms include a return to the 1600 point scale, an optional essay and a redesigned vocabulary section.

Additionally, CollegeBoard officials said they aim to make a test that doesn’t require an expensive preparatory class by offering free online practice. This is to counter a system that the CollegeBoard president said has given the perception that the test “reinforces privilege rather than merit.”

Black said that dropping the SAT or ACT requirement will help students from the School District of Philadelphia who otherwise have high academic standing.

Black said that high school grades are more indicative of how prepared for college the applicant is.

“Let’s say the student who submitted his test scores has a GPA of 2.0 but scored a 1400,” Black said. “The other student has a 3.85 GPA but did not submit their scores. If I had to make a choice, I would rather choose the latter, assuming he did well enough on his essay responses.”

Marcus McCarthy can be reached at marcus.mccarthy@temple.edu or on Twitter @marcusmccarthy6.

Joe Brandt contributed reporting to this article.

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