Fairfield University announces SAT Optional policy

Fairfield University has announced an SAT optional policy that will begin with students seeking full-time undergraduate admission for the fall of 2010. Under the new policy, students who decide not to submit SAT scores will instead be required to write an additional essay related to Fairfield's mission and strategic vision, and will be highly encouraged to participate in an admission interview.

The policy change comes at a time when several other distinguished universities have gone SAT optional and independent studies are showing positive results.

For Fairfield the decision was made as a result of an internal study and an increased emphasis on factors apart from SAT scores. Fairfield University President Jeffrey von Arx, S.J., said, "For several years now, Fairfield University has used a holistic review process in the evaluation of our prospective students, looking at the whole person in making an admission assessment." He said there is growing recognition that SAT scores are often shaped by environmental and cultural factors – including family income, a student's specific school district, the resources of their particular high school, and the availability of SAT test preparation services - that make them an unreliable gauge of a student's capacity for success.

Among the elements that Fairfield looks for, he said, are "measures of academic achievement, a student's curricular and extracurricular activities, their life skills and accomplishments, and the degree to which they have an appreciation for Fairfield's mission and outlook."

Karen Pellegrino, director of undergraduate admission, said Fairfield's movement away from SAT began five years ago. The change, she said, was "in keeping with Fairfield's mission that values the whole person in both the selection and education of our students. It sends a strong message that we value academic commitment and community engagement as the key hallmarks of students' high school experiences." Both Fairfield's internal research, as well as external studies, she said, have shown that the high school G.P.A. is a better indicator of a student's academic ability and success in college. The decision may also add to the ethnic, economic, and educational diversity of students, one of Fairfield’s most important strategic goals.

Father von Arx said, "Central to our strategic vision is that we make a Fairfield education available to as many talented students as possible, that we consistently work to broaden the socio-economic, cultural, racial and ethnic diversity of our student body, and that we take the whole person into account, as is consistent with our Jesuit and Catholic mission and identity. >By making SAT scores optional, we are bringing our admission procedures more consistently into line with our strategic vision, and I have no doubt that our campus community will be richer as a result."

Among the other institutions nationwide that have chosen to be SAT optional are Bowdoin, Connecticut College, Dickinson, Holy Cross, Providence, Smith, Hamilton and Wake Forest. While the submission of SAT scores will be optional, based on the past experiences of other SAT optional schools, Fairfield can anticipate that 75-80% of its applicant pool will continue to submit scores. Test scores from non-submitters will be collected after confirmation of attendance for advising and research purposes only.

Fairfield will offer the new option of not submitting standardized test scores for four years, and will assess the program annually and at the end of the four-year period.

Among the areas of greatest interest in evaluating the policy will be student academic performance and community engagement.

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Media Contact: Nancy Habetz, (203) 254-4000, ext. 2647, nhabetz@fairfield.edu

Posted on March 30, 2009

Vol. 41, No. 271

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