DePaul University makes ACT or SAT optional

Does the four year education or the score from a four hour Saturday morning test predict college success better? Photo: Scheffert Photo

CHICAGO, IL (February 17, 2011) – “DePaul goes Test-Optional for 2012” was a blog post that caught my attention. DePaul has made ACT or SAT scores optional for freshman admission in 2012. This change was unanimously approved by the DePaul University Faculty Council at its February 9, 2011, meeting.

As the parent of a son and daughter this intrigues me. Our son is an awesome test taker. He also happens to be a freshman at DePaul University.  He had some academic bumps in high school so his high ACT score may have “counter weighed” his GPA. 

Family weekend at DePaul University in Chicago, 2010.

Our daughter is an eighth grader. She has more tension over test taking. Her effort and persistence to date make her a straight A student. She has three years before she meets the “intimidating” college preparation tests. 

The DePaul blog post says, 

“We all know, of course, that if you score really well on the ACT or SAT, you’ve probably got something good going on in your head, and that’s why these tests are especially helpful for super-selective universities who need to make fine distinctions between and among thousands of students with perfect high school records.   

But we also all know lots of really smart, or creative, or resourceful, or talented people with great high school records, for whom a single measure like a standardized test does not tell the whole story. “

Tests may also favor certain types of scholars and/or racial or ethnic groups.

 “Standardized test scores are strongly correlated with income, and scores vary dramatically across ethnic groups, raising questions about their fairness to all members of our society. The prevalence of the “test preparation industry” and the ability of wealthier students to take the test repeated times contribute to the debate about equity.

“To be sure, the answers about fairness are nebulous, and both sides of the argument cite findings either confirming or dismissing the perception of bias. The debate rages on while students and parents find themselves caught in the middle of a national obsession and anxiety over testing and college admission that serves no one well.”

Getting into college and being successful there are two different things. The students who opt out of submitting ACT or SAT scores must submit an essay. This essay is wholistic and reviewed for noncognitive variables.  

“There is also considerable research by William Sedlacek, professor emeritus at the University of Maryland, in the use of the noncognitive variables that strongly predict propensity to graduate from college. Noncognitive variables indicate strengths that students might have in

  • leadership,
  • long-term goals,
  • positive self-concept and
  • a supportive family

We know that these factors matter for student success.”

The bottom line or key message seems to be: 

All that number crunching confirms what admissions officers all know anyway: That your chances for success in college are, for the most part, determined by how good a student you have become, which is of course generally reflected in your high school GPA in college-prep classes.”

We are on course with our daughter for these factors. Wish us luck as she heads to high school. There, hopefully she will set goals, feel good about herself, and take on leadership roles. Success is about more than being an excellent test taker.

Please Comment: What do you think about this change? Do you see differences in your children’s ability on standardized tests?

Leadership development expert & consultant, Donna Rae Scheffert helps propel people toward their goals easier, faster, and with more fun. Sign up for a RSS feed and read more from Donna Rae at Online-Leadership-Tools.  Follow Donna Rae on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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Donna Rae Scheffert

Donna Rae Scheffert is a facilitator, consultant and writer. Find more information online at

She lives in Minnesota with her husband and teenage son and daughter.

Honors and awards include University of Minnesota -Distinguished Extension Campus Faculty Award; Minnesota Rural Futures-FUTURES award; and numerous state and national awards for programs and publications.

Scheffert is an author of practical fieldbooks: Committees That Work: Common Traps and Creative Solutions; Social Capital, Building Leadership Programs, and Facilitation Resources available from

Donna Rae is also a Senior Consultant with and an Associate with

Her civic participation includes: Board Member-Community Action Center; Board Member-Women’s Philanthropic Group, and soccer team coordinator.

Photo Credit: Amber Procaccini

Leadership development expert & educator, Donna Rae Scheffert knows how public action by others for others improves lives - she helps people to get involved and provides tools to propel them toward their goals easier, faster, and with more fun. Read more from Donna Rae at

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