At Ohio Northern University, we have found that it is best to look at many measures in making a decision about an applicant's promise and potential for success. Accordingly, we review such things as high school grades, attendance, courses taken by the student, activities in which the student has participated, including service opportunities and leadership roles, class rank, and advanced placement and postsecondary option work taken successfully.
We examine the scores prospective students earn on the standardized college entrance exams: the SAT and the ACT. In our experience, these scores tell us two important things. First, they provide a common benchmark for prospective students that come from a range of high school backgrounds. Cumulative grade point averages often tell us little about such things as the rigor of the course work the student has taken and the analytical abilities it has engendered. Standardized tests can help us evaluate prospective students' capabilities in these and related areas. Secondly, they can help us, when they are broken down, place students in appropriate courses. For example, we have used the SAT-V and the ACT-EN scores to enable students to bypass freshman English and enroll in an alternative course in their initial term of study. Similarly, we have used standardized scores to help us identify students whose transition to college will be facilitated by particular kinds of programs.
In addition, we rely on recommendations from teachers and personal interviews to determine a prospective student's likelihood of success. The personal interview, in particular, can help those involved in the admission process (faculty, deans, admissions staff) understand a student's motivation, intention, and commitment to success and to the academic program selected.
In sum, we believe that the more information one can obtain about a student, the better the decision to admit or not admit will be. Although standardized test scores are by no means perfect predictors, they do provide valuable information about some of the characteristics important for success in college. They, therefore, represent one, but only one, of the factors we review in the admission process at ONU.
Dr. Kendall L. Baker is president of Ohio Northern University in Ada.