The Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president of Niagara University, unveiled a new policy today that makes the submission of standardized scores optional for incoming students.

Niagara University is taking the lead in Western New York by implementing a test-optional admission policy for the fall 2018 semester. As part of the policy, students seeking admission to Niagara may elect not to submit standardized test scores as part of their admission application.

“We know from our own data, as well as other research, that high school GPA serves as one of the strongest predictors of student success in college, and that the academic rigor of a student’s high school experience is central to preparation for success in college,” said the Rev. James J. Maher, C.M., president of Niagara University. “A test-optional policy allows us to use these core areas as the foundation for our admissions process. This is truly a progressive way to maintain Niagara University’s high academic standards while, at the same time, challenging the paradigm of the overreliance on standardized testing as an admission criterion for incoming students.”

In arriving at this decision, the university community engaged in a yearlong review, which included consulting with sister Vincentian universities – St. John’s and DePaul, both of which are test-optional universities. The review of data showed that the high school grade point average (GPA) has the highest predictive strength relative to first-year GPA. Additionally, when standardized test scores (SAT or ACT) were combined with the high school GPA, the predictive strength difference was negligible.

“There is a strong movement to question college admissions procedures for their overreliance on a single standardized test score,” continued Father Maher. “We also know that placing such a pronounced emphasis on SAT scores can be a disadvantage for many students who may have excelled in high-level courses in high school, but may not have access to standardized test preparation programs. Thus, a test-optional policy may increase access to, and successful completion of, a college degree for a great number of students.”

Niagara University joins a growing list of colleges and universities nationwide that have implemented test-optional admissions, including American University, College of the Holy Cross, Hobart and William Smith Colleges, Le Moyne College, Providence College, and Wake Forest University.

As part of Niagara University’s test-optional program, admission for incoming freshmen will be based on a holistic review of a student’s application and supporting documents, including high school GPA, rigor of that student’s high school curriculum and the student’s level of engagement. For consideration of the university’s highest scholarship levels and certain academic programs, SAT or ACT scores will need to be submitted to the university.

“Throughout my life, I have not been the most successful standardized test taker. For me, my GPA speaks so much more about the dedication that I put into my academics than my standardized test scores,” said Britini D’Angelo, a junior communication studies and theatre major at Niagara. “The effort that I consistently showed in high school, along with my higher grades, has been consistent with my grade point average in college – a 4.0, which, again, is based upon my effort, time management, class choice and immense amount of dedication.”

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