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Clarke University adopts long-term test-optional policy

By Clarke News  |  February 7, 2022

To reduce and eliminate inequities in the college entrance process, Clarke University has committed to continuing its test-optional practices for future admissions decisions. 

With a test-optional application process, students may choose whether or not to submit scores from national standardized tests, such as the ACT and SAT, with their other college application materials. Clarke first introduced a test-optional approach for admissions decisions in the fall of 2020, when access to testing was greatly restricted due to reduced testing dates and closed facilities during the COVID-19 pandemic.  

“At the time, we were responding to the pressures of the pandemic, but the results have been powerful for Clarke,” said Charles Cotton, Vice President for Enrollment Management. “We had to come together, across campus, to reevaluate our holistic admissions practices and identify new ways to best serve and advise our students. While we will continue to assess and evaluate best practices for our admissions and support practices, remaining test-optional aligns with our mission to provide access to a high quality, faith-based education for all.” 

Prior to the pandemic, tests like the ACT and SAT were used as a predictor of college success and could provide some guidance as to the types of courses a student may be placed into. Opponents of national standardized tests had pointed to inequities in the testing process, including everything from access to test preparation and support services to implicit bias in the questions being asked.  

Few correlations exist between academic ability and performance on standardized tests,” said Eden Wales Freedman, Vice President for Academic Affairs and Dean of the Faculty. “How one student performs on one day actually has very little to do with how well they will do in college. The questions on standardized tests can also reflect bias against members of marginalized groups. Word problems involving lacrosse, for example, may not resonate with students who have never encountered the sport due to culture, region, gender, and/or income. So, although such tests attempt to provide a ‘standard’ against which to measure all applicants, marginalized applicants may find that the ‘standard’ does not include them.” 

Clarke’s decision aligns with a growing national trend. According to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, more than 1,800 accredited four-year institutions in the United States now use a test-optional process.  

To learn more about Admissions at Clarke University, visit