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George Washington makes SAT, ACT optional: Do standardized tests still matter?

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Susan Walsh/AP

(Read caption) Akira Lee (front right) and Scheryl Duarte (l.) both seniors at Roosevelt High School, talk with Martin Copeland, the school's DC College Access Program adviser, as they fill out a college enrollment application at the school in Washington, Nov. 14, 2013. GW University announced Monday that undergraduate applicants will no longer be required to submit their SAT or ACT standardized test scores.

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Undergraduate applicants to George Washington University will no longer have to submit their ACT or SAT test scores, the school announced on Monday.

University administrators were concerned that below-average standardized test scores were leading some otherwise strong students to not apply to the school, Dean of Admissions Karen Stroud Felton said in a statement Monday.

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"Although we have long employed a holistic application review process, we had concerns that students who could be successful at GW felt discouraged from applying if their scores were not as strong as their high school performance," Ms. Felton said. "We want outstanding students from all over the world and from all different backgrounds – regardless of their standardized scores – to recognize GW as a place where they can thrive."

The change will take effect on August 1, according to the announcement on the University's website, which states:

Those applying to GW for the 2016-17 school year will have the option to include standardized test scores as part of their application. High school coursework and grades will continue to be the most important factors in GW's holistic review process, along with a student's writing skills, recommendations, involvement in school and community, and personal qualities and character. However, this year, students who do not think their SAT or ACT scores are an accurate reflection of their academic potential can choose not to submit them.

GW joins other colleges and universities across the nation making score submissions optional for applicants. There are some 180 public and private colleges in the U.S. News & World Report rankings that have made a similar shift, including Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, N.C., Wesleyan University in Middletown, Conn., Bryn Mawr College in Bryn Mawr, Pa., and Temple University in Philadelphia, The Washington Post reports

A study published by the National Association for College Admission Counseling last year explains that optional testing policies at universities – those that make submitting SAT or ACT results optional for applicants – can offer important enrollment and financial planning benefits for college-bound students, The Christian Science Monitor reported.

The study found that those who took the standardized tests more often felt discouraged or cut off from the application process after receiving their test results, versus feeling encouraged to continue toward college or university. The study measured cumulative GPAs and college graduation rates for "submitters" – those who submitted standardized test scores – and "non-submitters" in universities with optional testing policies.