February 21, 2019, BY Mike Ferlazzo

Freas Hall
Freas Hall is home to Bucknell University's Office of Admissions. Photo by Chris Shipley

Standardized test scores (SAT or ACT) will now be optional for students to submit when applying to Bucknell University starting with the class applying for enrollment in fall 2020. The test-optional policy will be offered to all applicants with the exception of varsity student-athletes (testing is required for calculating the Patriot League Academic Index), home-schooled students (testing provides a standardized measure given individualized transcripts) and international students (to assist with verification of credentials).

Bucknell is one of only a few undergraduate, highly selective institutions to offer the policy across three academic colleges (the College of Arts & Sciences, the College of Engineering and the Freeman College of Management). It also supports the University's mission to provide greater access to students from varying educational and socioeconomic backgrounds, contributing to its participation in the American Talent Initiative — an alliance of colleges and universities dedicated to substantially expanding opportunity and access for low- and moderate-income students.

"The principle point for going test optional was to provide greater access to Bucknell," said Kevin Mathes, dean of admissions. "We are looking for ways to open our doors to more students, and by going test optional, we're making sure students aren't letting a single test score dictate whether they consider Bucknell."

The University has long employed a holistic admissions practice in which standardized test scores are just one factor in an applicant's consideration. The new policy will enhance that approach.

"There is nothing inherently bad about testing," said Bill Conley, vice president for enrollment management. "But we've always looked at testing from an arm's length because, in our holistic approach, we feel the most important thing is a student's academic transcript along with the assessment of their character and the kind of challenges they've taken on to get where they are."

Bucknell is also a member of the Character Collaborative, an initiative formed by educators with the goal of changing admissions practice at the higher and secondary education levels to reflect the significance of character strengths in attaining success in school, college and work. The University's test-optional policy contributes toward that goal.

"Every application review begins with the premise: find the evidence that supports admitting the student. Now, if the student chooses not to offer testing as evidence, we won't wonder why. We will focus on other factors," Conley said.

The test-optional policy will be conducted over a five-year pilot to assess the patterns of success for test score submitters and non-submitters.