Mercyhurst decides to go test-optional

Mercyhurst University at the end of 2014-2015 academic year will no longer require applicants to submit standardized tests as part of the application process.

The decision to no longer require standardized tests come after deliberation within the school and in the wake of many other colleges and universities, a total of 850 schools, taking the step to become “test-optional.”

Christian Beyer, Director of Admissions, said that Mercyhurst has not regarded the tests as “a true indication of success” at Mercyhurst. He said the admissions process at Mercyhurst is“holistic,” taking all aspects of the applicant into account.

“We do require a transcript, SATs or ACTs, letter of recommendation, and an essay,” Beyer said. “If we see students who have a GPA or a test score lower than our standards, we’re not going to completely dismiss that applicant. We’re going to look a little deeper … look at the circumstances around them as far as their school district, home life.”

Despite the decision to go test-optional, the majority of applicants are likely to still submit their test scores as part of their application, Beyer said.

“Eighty-five to 90 percent of the schools that are on this plan, the students still submit their scores,” Beyer said. The goal of this push is not to increase acceptance rates, but to “identify students that may be in school districts that don’t have the proper testing or training to take the exam.”

Students who choose to not submit their test scores are not necessarily taking the easy way out. The decisions will be made by committee, and students who don’t submit test scores will be asked to submit “another letter of recommendation … and a graded writing sample from a class, and probably an on-campus interview,” Beyer said.

The decision to go test-optional is unlikely to have an effect on the numbers of students coming to Mercyhurst from private schools, such as Mercyhurst Prepatory School, or county schools, such as Fairview High School, according to the respective guidance counselors, Gary Froehlich and Emily Crawford. However, it would offer an increased chance of entry to students from urban area schools within Erie, particularly East High School.

“This is definitely going to have a huge impact,” said Rob Kitchen, guidance counselor at East High School in Erie. “A lot of our students have good grade point averages, but they struggle on the assessments.”

The decision to go test-optional also offers increased opportunities to the refugees who attend East High and have English as their second language.

“This is going to open up doors that they’ve not been able to have that college experience because of the language barrier,” Kitchen said. The location of Mercyhurst also allows them to attend a four-year program without having to worry about room, board, and transportation to and from campus, as well as allowing them to maintain the tight-knit family units with which they currently live.

“You’re not just opening the doors to East High,” Kitchen said. “You’re opening the doors to many other urban high schools and giving students a chance to succeed in life.” Giving students that chance is the reason for the decision to go test-optional.