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York College Pair Examines Test-Optional Policies in Higher Education

Two graduate business students posing for their picture in front of a Welcome to York College sign

Kelly Arcieri ’22 and Cortnie Amelotte ’00/’22, who are both in the Strategic Leadership and Management graduate program at York College of Pennsylvania, submitted their study for the inaugural Graduate Research Day.

York College of Pennsylvania’s Kelly Arcieri ’22 and Cortnie Amelotte ’00/’22 see the pros and cons of testing policies in higher education.

For Arcieri, who is Internship/Co-op Advisor for Civil Engineering and Computer Science majors at York College, it can be a determining factor in where someone lands in the Kinsley School of Engineering, Sciences and Technology. Amelotte, who is an Associate Director of Admissions, has seen it as a tool to help screen prospective students.

While continuing their respective work as administrators, each of the women are also graduate students at York College. Their public policy class in their Strategic Leadership and Management graduate program pushed them to examine test-optional policies.

“Initially, I was interested in this because of COVID-19, as we had to make adjustments to our admissions policies. A big change was the adoption of test optional,” Amelotte says. “A lot of schools have taken that pathway. It was something that was fresh in my mind and that we’re currently dealing with in the office.”

The test-optional policy means college applicants can choose to not submit their SAT scores and instead can submit high school transcripts as well as two letters of recommendation and a personal statement. Arcieri and Amelotte wanted to see how this optional format could increase admissions for underrepresented populations in American higher education.

“For my departments, we know that women are underrepresented in engineering fields,” Arcieri says. “I was very curious to see how test optional could help get more women into engineering programs and help level the playing field.”

Looking at the data

Underrepresented students didn’t just include ethnicity, although that was a factor in Amelotte and Arcieri’s study. They also looked at low-income and first-generation college students. Across the board, test optional admissions policies saw higher numbers of applicants.

“Some of the feedback from students that we came across in our research is that they felt it was possible for them to apply to some of their reach schools or some they didn’t think they’d be admitted to,” Arcieri says. “Nationally, a lot of people felt more encouraged to apply to schools than they would have in the past.” 

Amelotte has also drawn on her professional experience and believes she’s considered more students for admission than she would have in the past if it were simply based on test scores alone. “It’s a really interesting challenge to say that maybe we should be giving more students a chance,” she says. “There are some really bright, capable, amazing students who want to go to college, but they felt intimidated from a test standpoint. It doesn’t have to be that way anymore.”

Moving forward

Arcieri and Amelotte both shared a poster presentation of their study during the inaugural Graduate Research Day at York College on April 22, 2021. They also believe the information they gathered can be helpful to their professional roles at the College.

“I think this helps support some of those ideas about how we become more diverse, more inclusive as an institution, and hopefully people will take this as a serious way of going about doing that,” Arcieri says. “It’s a really interesting way of thinking about testing differently.”