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School won't insist on test

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POTSDAM — SUNY Potsdam is the first college in the State University of New York system to make SAT and ACT scores optional as part of its admissions process.

Students no longer will be required to submit the standardized test scores with their undergraduate applications, under a three-year trial approved recently by SUNY.

"We are putting into effect something that we strongly believe, and it's going to be something much more comfortable for this campus," college President John F. Schwaller said. "At SUNY Potsdam, we look at the whole student and their abilities as measured in many, many different ways."

SUNY Potsdam will now concentrate more on high school grade point average, course work, essays, letters of recommendation, resumes and interviews.

The university began looking into the policy four years ago and the faculty approved moving forward with the initiative in December 2007.

Mr. Schwaller said SUNY Potsdam recently conducted a study about members of its student body and found that their high school record best predicted how well they would do in college.

"We did a study about student success at SUNY Potsdam and the utility of standardized tests in predicting student success, and the results corroborated what the national literature said, which is quite simply that standardized tests are not a good predictor of student success," Mr. Schwaller said. "Students who do well in high school do better at SUNY Potsdam than those who don't do well in high school."

SUNY Potsdam will stop requiring students to submit their standardized test scores beginning in 2010-11.

More than 815 universities nationally do not require the SAT or ACT for admission, according to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing.

Critics of the tests say they are flawed and biased, Mr. Schwaller said, noting that minority students and women do not score as high as male and white and Asian students. There also is a large gap in average test scores depending on how much students' parents earn.

"We have scores of students on campus now who have very, very good high school records who did not do well on standardized tests. My own son was salutatorian of his high school class, and he did not have a good SAT score," Mr. Schwaller said. "We need to be able to analyze students' ability to succeed in college, and at the end of the day, standardized tests are just not that helpful."

SUNY Potsdam will still require standardized test scores for students whose high school average is below 85, Mr. Schwaller said. The college also anticipates that many students will continue to submit their SAT or ACT test results simply because they continue to take the test.

SUNY Potsdam does require prospective graduate students to take the GRE test.

"Test scores are not always effective measurements of a student's potential at SUNY Potsdam, and it doesn't really fit the creative and interdisciplinary culture here," Thomas W. Nesbitt, director of admissions, said in a statement. "The new policy will position us for future shifts in the prospective student population and should lead to increased quality in our student body."

SUNY Geneseo also is experimenting with a trial program this year, in which it will not require early admissions applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores, Mr. Schwaller said.

St. Lawrence University, Canton, dropped the requirement for standardized test scores for applicants in 2005.

Clarkson University, Potsdam, and SUNY Canton still use the test scores as part of their admissions process.

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