Alex Geli

Young Lancaster County residents rejoice: Millersville University will make SAT and ACT scores optional for students within the county starting with fall 2015 applicants.

Millersville is the only university in the 14-member Pennsylvania State System of Higher Education enacting this change, shying away from the test-first mentality that is consuming K-12 education of late. The decision is precipitated from a pilot program, Lancaster Connection.

“It certainly is innovative and allows us to be more agile in our admissions process,” said Katy Ferrier, Millersville’s director of admissions. “The most important role of the admission office is to recruit, admit and enroll students who demonstrate the potential to be successful at Millersville and ultimately graduate with their college degree.”

Ferrier mentioned that the university conducted “several months” of research to ensure a positive result for incoming students in the county. Besides testing, research showed, there are plenty of other ways to evaluate a prospective student’s worth.

“The conclusion was that students who earn a high GPA and/or class rank are just as likely to be successful at Millersville as students who earn high SAT or ACT scores,” Ferrier explained. “By making the SAT [and] ACT tests optional for these applicants, we are removing a barrier that might exist for students who do not perform well on standardized tests.”

Students, therefore, will be judged holistically on the overall success of their high school careers.

High school graduates venturing off to college from Lancaster County will thus be guaranteed admission to Millersville if they either A.) obtain a high school GPA of at least 3.5 by their senior year or B.) rank in the top 10 percent of their class with a GPA of at least 3.2 also by their senior year.

With an enhanced focus on standardized testing throughout high school, Millersville has now joined the colleges weaning off this paradigm. More have been ditching the SATs and ACTs, especially since the revisions made in 2004-5.

According to the National Center for Fair & Open Testing, more than 800 four-year colleges and universities have loosened their viewpoints on these tests, making them optional or flexible for applicants. These include familiar schools such as Temple University and Franklin & Marshall College.

Millersville may eventually extend this rule to all students, not just residents, according to Lancaster Newspapers.

“We hope that we are opening doors for students whose strengths might lie more so in their course work, academic rigor and GPA than in their standardized test scores,” Ferrier said.

Although these scores would be optional to submit, Ferrier advised students to send SAT scores of at least 1100 (on a 1600 scale) and a 21-or-above ACT for scholarship consideration.

“We are not necessarily de-emphasizing standardized testing,” she said. “We are shifting our focus to allow students more options to demonstrate academic ability and their potential to be successful students and graduates.”