Mike Rotunno '24 spent four years building the kind of resume college admissions counselors crave.
He wasn't about to let four hours on a Saturday morning erase all that hard work.
The biology major from Staten Island, N.Y., got excellent grades in some of his school's toughest classes. He was active in seven clubs, holding leadership roles in two. He tutored students at his high school and a local elementary school.
But there was one piece of information absent from Rotunno's application to Bucknell University: a standardized test score. Rotunno joined more than 1,600 applicants who chose to take advantage of Bucknell's test-optional admissions policy in its inaugural year. The policy, which makes SAT or ACT scores optional for most applicants, was introduced in 2019 for students applying to join the Class of 2024 and beyond.
"While my grades were pretty impressive in the classroom, I have always struggled with standardized tests," Rotunno says. "I didn't want my chances of attending such a wonderful institution to be dependent upon the test scores I received on one test I took early on a Saturday morning. I believed that my grades in the classroom and my personal accomplishments were much more reflective of who I am as both a student and a person."
Students like Rotunno are the reason Bucknell launched a test-optional policy, says Dean of Admissions Kevin Mathes '07. When reviewing applications, Bucknell has always looked at the whole student — not just grades and scores. The test-optional policy enhances that approach.
"Instead of plugging numbers into an algorithm, we examine each student's application personally," Mathes says. "We go beyond the numbers to understand everything that makes a student unique."
This works both ways. The policy also ensures that no exceptional student takes Bucknell off their list because of one bad score.
Rotunno says he put Bucknell on his list of 15 to 20 schools because it checked every box: academics, size, campus life, location, community, alumni connections and internship opportunities.
"It had everything that I was looking for in a college," he says. "I felt it would be a great place for me to grow and mature over these next four years of my life."
More Than a Score
Grace Condon '24, an undeclared arts & sciences major from Wenham, Mass., toured 14 schools. She chose Bucknell because of the energy of its students.
"I felt an instant sense of community," she says. "Everyone that I met with loved Bucknell and could not wait to share with me the reasons why they loved it."
In high school, Condon was a successful student-athlete, balancing time in the classroom with tennis matches and field hockey games. As her high school classes got more and more difficult, Condon refused to quit sports or reduce her academic workload — a tenacity that helped her earn admission to Bucknell, her top-choice school.
Condon chose to apply test-optional because she "felt I had so much more to show than a test score," she says.
Crunching the Numbers
For Natalie Greco '24, a finance major from Mendham, N.J., choosing not to include her SAT score when applying to Bucknell was a simple calculation.
"I felt that my GPA would be sufficient to gain admission," says Greco, whose weighted GPA was over 5.0. "I figured that my SAT score wouldn't really help advance my application, so why bother to submit it?"
That high GPA becomes even more remarkable when paired with everything else Greco did in high school. She was involved in clubs for students interested in the stock market, service and business. She was the captain of her cross-country team. She maintained an aggressive dance schedule.
"I'm most proud of developing an ability to manage my schedule to pursue those things I really wanted to do while achieving goals I had for myself," she says. "I'm looking forward to embarking on this next stage of my life — gaining a new level of independence, meeting new people and becoming part of a new community."
Telling the Whole Story
Myna Lim '24, an undecided engineering major from Bellevue, Wash., has been thinking a lot about her Bucknell future, too, and the chance to be immersed in the world of engineering.
"During my high school career, I was always interested in engineering but never had the chance to experience the program," she says. "I always saw myself being an engineer when I get a job."
Lim was extremely active in high school and looked for colleges with strong engineering programs and ample opportunities to get involved. Like more than 16% of applicants, she chose not to include SAT or ACT scores when applying because, she says, "I thought my test scores didn't reflect how hard I worked during my high school career."
Lim's application stood out to Bucknell because of her grades and out-of-school involvement. And Bucknell stood out to Lim because it felt like home.
"I like the small classes that motivate and engage students," she says, "and I was in love with the campus — even though I live on the other side of the country."