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DePaul makes ACT and SAT scores optional for high school seniors

DePaul campus for story school dropping ACT SAT scores as requirements for admission. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

DePaul campus for story on the school dropping ACT and SAT scores as requirements for admission. | Rich Hein~Sun-Times

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Students who do not submit ACT or SAT scores on their DePaul University applications are asked to answer the following questions:

1. Describe your short- and long-term goals and how you plan to accomplish them.

2. Describe a personal challenge you have faced, or a situation that you found to be particularly difficult. How did you react and what conclusions did you draw from the experience? Were you or others treated unfairly? Were you able to turn to others for support?

3. Discuss how involved you have been with your community through volunteer, neighborhood, place of worship, or other activities. Describe why community is or is not important to you. Give examples of playing a leadership role in your school or community.

4. Think about the interests you have pursued outside of your high school classes (e.g. independently or through a student organization, part-time work, sports, playing a musical instrument, volunteering, independent study, etc.) Describe any knowledge or mastery of skills you have gained as a result.

Updated: November 4, 2011 8:15PM

High school seniors planning to apply to DePaul University for the freshman class of 2012 can leave some key information off their applications.

Their ACT or SAT scores.

The Chicago school isn’t the first college to drop standardized tests for incoming students, but is believed to be the largest private non-profit school to do so.

The decision, five years in the making, centered around DePaul’s mission as a school with a diverse student population, including many who are part of the first generation in their families to pursue a college degree, said Jon Boeckenstedt, associate vice president of enrollment management.

“People here know that if you have at the core of your identity changing lives or helping people move from situations of bad to better, you have to give them an opportunity,” Boeckenstedt said. “You can’t judge them the same way as everyone else.”

Students can still include their test scores if they want, and admissions officials expect most students will. For those who don’t, they are asked to submit answers to four supplemental essay questions that ask about goal setting, community involvement and personal challenges.

The supplemental questions have been part of DePaul’s application for three years.

“They’re designed to help us uncover the characteristics of the spirt, heart, mind and soul,” Boeckenstedt said.

For this year’s incoming freshman class, DePaul received 16,000 applications for 2,500 spots. Approximately fifty-seven percent were in the top quarter of their high school class, the average grade point average was 3.57 and the average ACT composite was 25.4 and SAT, math and verbal, was 1165, according to a preliminary look at the class.

Of the incoming class of 2010, the latest figures available, 52 percent fall into one of four categories that make up what DePaul calls a “mission student” — a first generation college student, low income, an underrepresented student of color or a student from the City of Chicago. About four percent of the incoming 2010 freshman class fell into all four of these categories.

National and state data consistently show a correlation between high incomes and high ACT and SAT scores, said Carla Cortes, DePaul’s enrollment management special project leader. But in a decade’s worth of data, ACT and SAT scores had little correlation with how DePaul’s students performed in the classroom when they got on campus, Cortes said

“The best and fairest criteria for predicting how a student will do in college is the high school GPA, their high school record in college prep courses over four years,” she said.

Araceli Palafox, the college counselor at Cristo Rey Jesuit High School on the Southwest Side, said DePaul’s decision would benefit her students.

“The students that we serve are first generation college students,” she said. “They don’t have the resources to do test prep. I think it’s going to open doors of opportunity.”

Jim Miller, president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling, said hundreds of schools have gone test optional successfully. He doesn’t see a day, though, where the majority of schools won’t require a standardized score.

“I think the folks that have done it have felt tests can be one tool with which to assess students, but that it’s not the best tool for all students,” Miller said.

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