Test-Optional Trend Creates Challenges for Student Recruitment

Test-Optional Trend Creates New Challenges for Student Recruitment

A new trend in the college application and acceptance process is gaining steam and it’s called “test-optional”. More than 1,000 colleges and universities in the US have adopted the test-optional route which does not require applicants to submit their SAT or ACT scores. As a result, students can now opt-out of taking college entrance exams creating a major recruiting challenge for colleges that rely on purchases of test-taker lists. With the test-optional trend gaining steam, colleges need to begin thinking about how they will access and market to students opting out of entrance exams.

Why Test-Optional is Gaining Momentum

Education professionals have, for years, understood that there is not necessarily a perfect (or any at all) correlation between standardized test scores, GPA’s and overall performance. It has long been known that some students do well on standardized tests, and some don’t. There are variety of reasons some students “test well” while others don’t. There is also a big debate on whether or not these tests provide a level playing field to students who many face other adversities that affect their ability to perform well on these tests. In response. going test-optional is gaining momentum as colleges look to other factors such as grades in college preparatory courses to predict if a student will be successful in higher education.

In 2019, approximately 20 percent of the 5,000 four year and two year, public and private colleges in the US have become “test-optional”. A new study supports the validity of this trend, finding that ‘ending SAT and ACT requirements results in more applications and more diversity – without any decline in graduation rates.’ And the number of test optional schools is growing as a result. FairTest: National Center for Fair & Open Testing, reports that their database of test-optional colleges grew 25 percent in 2019, compared last year at this time.

The Impact of Test-Optional on Recruiting Practices

Over 2 million students take college entrance exams, including the SAT and ACT, each year. Traditionally, colleges purchase lists from the test administration companies containing student contact information (email, home address, and phone number) to market their programs to. As students choose to forgo taking the ACT or SAT in favor of test optional schools, colleges will no longer be able to access these students via traditional channels. And, this number is sure to drop as more and more schools become test optional and test flexible which allows for different options in place of entrance exam requirements.

This begs the question: How will colleges access and recruit students who opt-out of taking the SAT or ACT when their information is no longer available from the testing providers?

Finding New Ways to Access Potential Students

Colleges need to start considering alternative methods to access, connect and engage with new and unique candidates as students turn to “test optional” schools and opt-out of college entrance exams. Mobile apps could provide the answer.

It’s not news that we live and breathe on our phones and use mobile apps for just about everything these days – including travel, banking, shopping, networking and more. And, there is no demographic that is more apt to communicate via mobile apps than teens.  This makes it the perfect channel to access and recruit college-bound students. While many colleges have embraced mobile apps for students to help them navigate campus life, courses and activities, they hold just as much appeal for prospective students.

An app provides the perfect outlet for a student to learn about a college from basic information to campus visit requests and interact by requesting info and more. Apps also allow for the flexibility to customize the experience. And they can be downloaded by any teen with access to a smartphone – 95 percent of teens according to Pew Research. This gives colleges the broadest potential audience regardless of their test-taking status.

A Solution for Evolving Admissions Challenges

College Interactive (Ci) offers a solution to access with a purpose-built a social and mobile app for a student’s college planning, search and selection process. It provides a new way for students to quickly learn about a college – and for colleges to access interested students. Using the Ci mobile app students are able to explore a college and opt-in to receive communications from them such as information on the programs, campus visits and admissions process. The Ci experience has been designed to embrace how GenZ and Millennials consume content on mobile apps – an ensures accessibility to the widest possible audience.

Ci’s mobile approach outperforms traditional channels including SAT and ACT list purchases, by providing unmatched access to a diverse audience of unique candidates who share rich opt-in information about themselves with colleges they are interested in. Self-contributed profiles and interactive experiences provide a holistic view of candidates far beyond the basic information that is available from standardized test lists. The added insight allows colleges to continue to target high probability prospects with one-to-one personalized communication.

Ci’s unique approach to access addresses ever-increasing admissions challenges and provides a new way to attract students who are opting out of college entrance exams in favor of test-optional colleges.

View our Infographic to learn more about the Ci Difference in Student Recruitment and Access.