Friday, April 7
BENNINGTON — Bennington College will join a growing number of colleges and universities when it adopts an "SAT-optional" policy for students entering the school in the fall of 2007.

"Like many schools that have gone this route, we haven't seen a sustained correlation between a student's SAT scores and their performance at Bennington. Grades were a better indicator of what they'll do ... when they're asked to be active stakeholders in their own education," said Dean of Admissions Ken Himmelman.

Under the new policy, students will have the option of submitting their SAT scores when they apply to Bennington College. They can rely instead on their school grades, extracurricular activities and other information. Himmelman said this will allow the school to get a better picture of whether the student and the college are a good match.

According to Himmelman, the college's decision comes within the context of a much wider cultural moment. The college application process, he said, is becoming "hysterical."

Himmelman said he read one newspaper story about a student applying to more than 20 colleges because of the competitive application process.

By dropping the narrow focus on the SATs, Himmelman said, the school can go beyond just the one indicator of college success.

The SAT tests recently were the focus of renewed controversy. In March, some tests were scored incorrectly.


Test officials said as many as 5,600 out of about 495,000 tests taken in October were affected.

Himmelman said Bennington College would still use SATs as part of its admissions process but the results of one test would "never be enough" to deny or guarantee admission.

"This puts the emphasis where it truly belongs. It's a very exciting time in a student's life where you have to decide, what do you want? What kind of a future do you want to create for yourself? What kind of a learning community do you want to be in?," he said.

Local high school leaders, who are charged with guiding future college students, said Bennington College's announcement was encouraging news.

"It's good that they're not using (the SATs) as the only criteria. One test score is not always indicative of a student's full potential," said Arlington Memorial High School Principal Kerry Csizmesia.

The trend among colleges and universities to move away from over-reliance on the SATs has been noticeable to Burr and Burton Academy Headmaster Charles Scranton. It's one he applauds.

"There's so much emphasis on one day, one test. Some kids don't test well. GPAs, how they challenge themselves ... those are better barometers of college success," he said.

Himmelman said Bennington College wasn't planning to expand its capacity of 600 to 700 students and isn't having problems attracting applicants.

"To be consistent with the values of this institution, this just seemed to be the right decision to make," he said.