The following story was reported during The Student Journalist Program’s five-day Summer Newsroom Workshop in August, 2016.
More colleges and universities in the D.C. metro area are becoming test optional.
Test optional institutions don't require potential students to submit standardized test scores, such as the SAT and the ACT, with their application. They are becoming a big draw for students who may not feel that a standardized exam score gives schools a true picture of their capabilities.
"Personally, I am most likely drawn to a test optional school because the SAT is not my strong suit," said 16 year-old Amani Reese, a senior at Paul Laurence Dunbar Senior High School in Northwest Washington.
Jed Paolo Dela Torre, a senior at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School in Northwest Washington, said he feels that test-optional universities accept a larger variety of students.
"I am more personally drawn to a school that is test-optional," said 17-year-old Dela Torre, "Because I figure colleges value people who are willing to challenge themselves by choice."
Since becoming test-optional in July 2015, the George Washington University received the most applications to date from undergraduate students, school officials said. The number of applications submitted to the school in the fall of 2016 has risen by 28 percent, according to the universit . About 20 percent of the applicants did not include standardized tests, officials said.
Another institution in in D.C. has been test optional for seven years. Jeremy Lowe, American University’s associate director of admissions, said he feels like the school’s admissions process is holistic because test scores aren't the dominant factor in the review process for applicants.
"It's something that we have had a long history with and something that we are very supportive of," he said.
He added: "Giving the students the choice to apply as a test-optional candidate allows the student to make a choice on how their application is reviewed."
In a recent interview with NPR, Laurie Koehler, who oversees admissions at GWU said the change in requirements is a positive thing.
"The test-optional policy should strengthen and diversify an already outstanding applicant pool and will broaden access for those high-achieving students who have been historically underrepresented at selective colleges and universities, including students of color, first-generation students and students from low-income households,” said Koehler in the NPR report.
Within the year, the George Washington University has seen a rise in the number of minorities applying to the school, including African-American and first-generation students, according to Koehler.
There are over one hundred public and private colleges that offer some type of test-optional choice for potential students, according to The Washington Post. Jack Buckley, the senior vice president of College Board, which administers the SAT and ACT, says while the number of test-optional institutions are sure to grow, the importance of exams will not diminish.
Buckley said in a Washington Post interview that the SAT is “an essential part of the admissions process” for most colleges and universities.
Despite the increase in test-optional schools, high school students still said they stress out about having to take the ACT and the SAT.
"I'm worried about not doing well enough or not having enough time to prepare for the test," said 17-year-old Mariem Abadir, a senior at Benjamin Banneker Academic High School.
Jennifer Vasquez, a 17-year-old from Northwest Washington who also is a senior at the same high school, said she too worries about taking tests.
Vasquez said: "I'm stressed about not studying enough, or studying too much, or about not studying what I should be."