TCNJ: The Emerging State College Goes Test Optional
For seventeen years I have lived near The College of New Jersey, aka ‘TCNJ’. TCNJ is to Rutgers-New Brunswick, our flagship state university, what the College of William and Mary is to UVa. or Virginia Tech. And like William and Mary, TCNJ has just announced that it will go test optional for the next three years. Rutgers made a similar announcement on May 26th.
Will TCNJ’s decision work to the detriment of Rutgers?
In terms of attracting more applicants, yes. TCNJ will attract more interest from students who have excellent grades. It’s also quite possible that the average GPA for the 2021 freshman class will be slightly higher than prior years. And it’s also quite possible that the school will present a freshman class with higher average ACT and SAT scores to the public. The low scores won’t count in the calculation because they will not reported.
But I also warn prospective students that TCNJ will not necessarily have room for more freshmen. The more who apply to a school under a test-optional admissions policy, the more who will be denied. TCNJ already had more competitive admissions for the Biological Science and Business majors than Rutgers. Those programs will be no less popular and no less competitive. You might have a fairer chance to compete for a seat in the business, engineering and nursing programs under test optional admissions at TCNJ, but you have to work for it.
Rutgers might count the scores for more. A larger school has a less personal admissions process. Those who manage to score high will have an advantage in admissions to the schools where scores have mattered more. High math scores matter in business, engineering and pharmacy admissions. I must also add that Rutgers will welcome more than 6,000 freshmen. It will have more room for more students in practically any major that is also offered by TCNJ.
Admissions might still be tough?
Definitely. TCNJ might be more holistic in admissions than a state university. When a school uses test-optional admissions, it places more weight on grades, essays, recommendations and any other supportive materials. There might be no scores in the file. But an applicant is less likely to get a pass for low grades, even in the subjects that s/he is not likely to study in college. An applicant is also less likely to get a pass if they have no extracurricular activities. Test-optional admissions favor applicants who do well in the classroom and are highly engaged outside of the classroom.
But what about the application for admission?
It depends. A fairly selective mid-size school that uses test-optional admissions will expect applicants to put more effort into their essays. They will count for more. It’s also quite possible that students who apply test optional will be asked to write more essays or answer more questions. Temple University, as one example, has a series of short-answer questions, the Temple Option, for students who apply test optional. If Temple, a large state university, has an admissions office that can take the time to read the answers to these questions, so can a smaller school like TCNJ.
Rutgers-New Brunswick has made the essay optional. You can have excellent grades in a rigorous academic program with middle of the pack test scores and get into Rutgers without writing an essay. The big state university is also less likely to take a long look at an extracurricular resume if the grades and scores fit the profile. However, it is more likely to award its more generous scholarships to applicants who write a good essay.
TCNJ and Rutgers each have their advantages. TCNJ puts more effort into undergraduate education, and educates few grad students. Rutgers offers access to resources that TCNJ could never hope to afford. TCNJ has an alumni base that will help its alumni get jobs in or around New York and Philadelphia. Rutgers is far more established around the world. New Jersey residents are fortunate to have this choice.
Want to know more about me, and how I define a good college? Listen these podcasts?
Listen to my talk, College Is A Learning AND Living Community, hosted by Dr. Cynthia Colon from Destination YOUniversity on Voice of America Radio!
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