File this under peculiar pandemic outcomes: more and more institutions (at least for now) no longer require students to submit SAT or ACT scores as part of their admissions process.  

After the COVID-19 pandemic led to widespread cancelations of SAT and ACT tests in 2020, many “selective” schools (schools that admit fewer than 50% of their applicants) removed or made optional the requirement that students submit those scores as part of their admissions package. Now, as students begin applying for fall 2022 admission, more than two-thirds of colleges and universities say they will not require admissions test scores, according to The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, a national nonprofit that advocates for standardized testing reform. 

This change has prompted many students, particularly first-generation students, to apply to schools they previously wouldn’t have considered. Consequently, many selective schools will have their most diverse incoming classes ever. But are these institutions prepared to educate and support students from vastly different backgrounds than many of their previous attendees?

Test Policy Change Implications, By the Numbers

A study that looked at nearly 100 private institutions that implemented pre-pandemic test-optional policies found that such policies were associated with a 3% to 4% increase in applications from Pell Grant recipients and a 10% to 12% increase in applications from first-time students from historically underrepresented racial/ethnic backgrounds. The trend held true during the pandemic, too: Data from the Common App showed that fall 2021 applications to selective institutions increased from first-generation students and students from historically marginalized groups. 

And those diverse applicants are enrolling: The University of California system announced that students from historically marginalized groups made up 43% of its incoming freshman class for fall 2021. 

In the past, historically marginalized students have been seen to be more likely to score poorly on standardized tests like the SAT or ACT compared to their more privileged peers-- but their scores on those tests are often not a good indicator of how well they’ll do in the classroom. Instead, standardized test scores often reflect how much money a student’s family makes, with students from wealthier families performing better on the tests. Eliminating the standardized testing requirement can significantly benefit students who have poor test scores but strong grades. 

But what about when those students actually get to campus? How will these schools make sure that students from historically underrepresented backgrounds feel like they belong on campus -- and how are schools going to make sure this is the start of a long-term commitment to enrolling a diverse student body?

Large-scale, structured mentorship programs like those offered by Mentor Collective can help.

Making College Work For Everyone

First-generation students and students from historically marginalized backgrounds often say they feel like they don’t belong at their institution. That’s concerning in and of itself, but it’s especially worrisome because a sense of belonging is positively tied to mental health and persistence. If a student lacks that connection with their institution, their overall college experience can suffer. 

But a relationship with a Mentor Collective mentor can change that.

Mentor Collective mentors and mentees talk about everything from academic struggles and financial aid to time management and how to find friends on campus. Connecting with a peer from a similar background helps students from historically marginalized backgrounds feel more comfortable and helps them build a community. A peer mentor can serve as the starting point for their mentee to find their niche on campus. 

“I am so grateful for the mentor connection with Maya (mentor), who can help guide me as a Biological Sciences major and pre-med student," said Kyra J., 2021-22 Mentor Collective Mentee at UC Davis BioLaunch. "I am eager to soak up all her knowledge and insight, and I have already sent her my first text message. Thanks again for the connection— I am so elated to be an Aggie!”

Enrollment at a selective college can open doors to networks that may not be possible at a smaller or less prestigious school -- an equity problem in and of itself. The Mentor Collective relationship sets up a long game for these selective schools to continue enrolling and retaining diverse student bodies: If the mentor-mentee relationship helps minority, first-generation, and/or low-income students eventually graduate from the selective school, it creates a more diverse alumni base from that school -- perpetuating a positive cycle of diversity in the school’s admissions and graduation. 

To learn how you can make your admissions process more personal and relevant to all students, contact us today.