Cornell College on leading edge of test-optional applications

Cornell College once again stands out as a leader in higher education as a test-optional school well ahead of other institutions.

During this pandemic, it has been difficult for high school students to take the ACT or SAT. In response, many colleges have changed their policy, temporarily, to allow students to apply for admission without test scores. 

Cornell, however, made the decision to go test-optional five years ago and has no intention of changing that policy when the pandemic is over. 

“Test-optional provides the greatest flexibility and access possible to potential students,” said Vice President for Enrollment Management Wendy Beckemeyer. “Cornell College has been a standard-bearer in providing flexibility, as noted by our One Course At A Time curriculum; the same is true with the admission process. Cornell College has been test-optional long before it became a common consideration this year.”  

At Cornell, students can use the Cornell application or the Common Application to apply, be admitted, and get a financial aid award all without ACT or SAT scores. Director of Admissions Drew Shradel says test-optional is great for many reasons.

“It gives more options for students to show themselves off in the application process who may have been hurt by submitting their test scores,” Shradel said. “Many of these students are great workers in the classroom but struggle in a timed environment. It is also a great way to improve the equity of opportunity for all students because it prevents the need to take a standardized test that not only costs money but also gives students who can afford tutors or testing prep an advantage.”

Shradel says the Cornell application process is transparent and simple. Students complete their applications with fewer official documents. Those applying without test scores to Cornell only need to provide a couple of additional short writing pieces that have prompts included within the application, plus an official or unofficial transcript.

The admission team thoughtfully reviews each submission to award the highest scholarship possible. According to Shradel, some schools allow for admission to be test-optional but require a test score for scholarships. Test scores are not reviewed for scholarships at Cornell.

“Cornell is constantly looking forward and is really ahead of its time,” Shradel said. “Schools are not only switching to test-optional now, which we did five years ago, but the block plan is proving to be flexible during times of uncertainty.”