Office of Admission changes testing requirements for first time since 2005

Beginning next fall, the Office of Admission will no longer require applicants to submit SAT Subject Tests as part of the process for admittance to the College. This shift in testing policy represents the first major change to the College’s application requirements since 2005.

The decision to make SAT Subject Tests optional stems from the College’s commitment to promoting accessibility for students from a diverse set of backgrounds and regions.

“The Subject Test requirement created a barrier for underprivileged students and/or students from regions outside the northeast,” Director of Admission Dick Nesbitt ’74 said.

Applicants will still have the choice to submit either SAT or ACT scores. The optional writing samples on both standardized tests will not be required.

The Subject Test requirement made the application process particularly difficult for students from under-privileged backgrounds. “Our concern is with students who are discouraged from applying to Williams because they find out about Subjects Tests in the fall of their senior year,” Nesbitt said. “Anecdotally, I have talked to students who have said, ‘I would have applied to Williams, but I heard about the Subject Test requirement in December of my senior year and was too late.’ I am hopeful [this change] will have the effect of encouraging students, particularly from underprivileged backgrounds, to apply.”

The requirement also hurt students from various regions across the country.

“For example, the University of California does not require Subject Tests; therefore, students are not told about the tests and do not prepare for them,” Nesbitt said.

The change in policy also hopes to reduce the number of tests students take during the college application process.

“We are concerned about the amount of [standardized] tests that students are taking,” Nesbitt said. “More and more students are taking both the SAT and ACT multiple times because colleges, including Williams, super-score.”

If applicants choose to submit Subject Tests, they will still be considered. “I think we will continue to see students who provide subject tests, but it won’t be a negative if they are not available,” Nesbitt said.

Despite this change, the College will not move to a completely test-optional policy in the foreseeable future.

“We continue to find that standardized tests are a predictor of academic success at Williams,” Nesbitt said. “As long as that is the case, we will continue to require some form of testing.”

That being said, Nesbitt recognizes the correlation between standardized test performance and family-income. “We consider ourselves ‘need-seeking.’ We are actually looking for high-achieving, low-income students, and, in many of those cases, we are aware that there have been less opportunities and resources available for standardized test prep.”

The Class of 2021 will be the first class admitted to the College under the policy. Nesbitt said, “We are hoping that if there have been students deterred from applying in the past, this change will remove the barrier.”

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