MSU Becomes First Public NJ School to Make SAT Optional

By Briana Vannozzi

SAT-optional. That’s the buzz word around Montclair State University ever since the college announced it will no longer require the test score for the admissions process starting in the fall of 2015. Karen Pennington is the vice president of Student Development.

“We’ve made the decision because we’ve been looking at this for 10 years and taking a look at what really makes our students successful and one of the things we learned is that high school GPA and the courses a student took are a much better predictor of their success here at the university than the SAT was,” she said.

MSU joins about 800 other colleges nationwide who have gone fully test-optional. Most are smaller private schools. The announcement makes MSU the first public university in the state to do so. For more than three generations the test has served as a yardstick to measure applicants from all around the country. Those in the business say it may not be the most accurate.

“I think it’s a signal by Montclair State and the other institutions that have made this decision to try to reach out to those students and to try to de-mistify the college application process and welcome them into the applicant pool,” said New Jersey Association of State Colleges and Universities Chief Executive Officer Michael Klein.

The SAT has also spurred a lucrative test prep industry — tutors who are on the front lines with students as they near the high pressure day. While they do agree the SAT shouldn’t be the main factor, they say it’s certainly a telling one.

“You’re going off of something that has no consistency. GPAs in schools across the state at least in my experience have no consistency,” said Associate Director of Academic Resources Sebastian Smeureanu.

Smeureanu teaches math and English.

“If I’m working with a student that can barely get lets say a 500 on a critical reading section of the SAT then I’m going to be a little worried that individual can’t even get through the preface of a psychology book or a history book in the courses that I’m offering. How ready are these students going to be to take advantage of what the university offers?” Smeureanu asked.

“Also I think some of the prep that we do here is really really important in the fact that it doesn’t just teach them the aspect of how to strategize to take the test but it actually does give them the fundamentals on how8 to study,” said Russ Vitale, director of College Planning Services.

The average incoming student has a 3.3 GPA and scores around a 1533 on the SAT and many students here say a college’s SAT requirement determines whether or not they’ll even apply.

“I personally didn’t do too hot on the SATs and I have a 3.4, so I think it’s more about your determination to succeed in the field that you’re pursuing,” said MSU Senior Josh Embden.

Right now the scores count for about 30 percent of a candidate’s application.

“Most important thing is the courses a student is taking. Are they taking courses above those required? More math, more science, more English?” asked Pennington.

University officials say that while the SAT and ACT scores may not be required, they will of course consider them, should a student chose to submit.