A 4th in a Series of Blogs about Rochester, Reading, and Testing

Jon Burdick writes the fourth part of a four-part series (part 1) (part 2) (part 3) on Rochester’s new “test flexible” stance for undergraduate admissions.

Rochester readers review testing as something you do (an achievement), not something you are.

Achievements matter, and readers look for them: you won the prize, the election, the game, you earned the grade, or the test score. Beyond assessing achievements, in trying to determine who you are (your character) and match that to Rochester, readers aim to understand:

  1. Your family and environment.
  2. Three or four years of your high school effort.
  3. Your sustained growth, activities, and contributions to a group and community over time.
  4. The personality and curiosity you demonstrate during an interview.

You often hear the phrase “grades and test scores” as if those are equivalent. False! High school grades incorporate a longer and steadier series of a teacher’s observations and measurements. Equating those grades with testing in admission review risks encouraging students to pursue an unproductive, singular-minded focus on testing, rather than a balanced interest in their classes and other activities over time.*

Readers here instead want to review testing results as independent measures of student achievements. Since the Rochester curriculum aims to help each student seek and build on her own best self, the best score matters most; it won’t matter if some of her testing achievements are less impressive, any more than it would matter if her community service achievements (for example) were less impressive than her athletic achievements.

Important: there is no game here, no benefit for a Rochester applicant to suppress any tests. Readers are looking for a possible strength as a basis to admit, not the opposite. Also, including the extra “less impressive” testing result may help. In trying to see a profile of what you accomplish in testing, readers do not expect every student to be great at every kind of test, but it can be valuable to see that a student has confronted more than one kind of test.

It would be possible for a student to submit so many test results that readers will infer that activity, testing, as a major and serious representation of who they are: he is a test-taker. The question students have to ask themselves is, “Are readers excited about admitting someone because they took, and sent us, many tests?” My guess is in many cases readers are more excited about students who have, and show, other interests.

* Proof that test-focus is a maladaptive behavior comes from historically test-centric countries now pursuing educational reforms, in part aiming to reduce unhappy behaviors such as cheating.

What do you think of the new test-flexible policy? Be sure to leave your comments below!

About the author

Jonathan Burdick

I am the Vice Provost and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid. I share big admissions news and updates as well as information and statistics about our incoming classes.


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  • Dear Mr Burdick,
    My name is Aidar Ulan, I am a junior in high school and I am an International Baccalaureate (IB) Student at the International School of Prague. I am interested in your university and as an International freshman. I have read your Text_Flexibility Policy and wanted to ask if I can apply to the University of Rochester’s undergraduate business related programmes with my IB diploma and not the SAT or ACT test scores?
    With best regards,
    Aidar Ulan

  • Dear Mr Burdick,

    I am student at Waterford Kamhlaba UWCSA. According to the test-flexibility policy, one is required to send as many scores as possible including the SATs. Since there are different test dates for the SAT and scores are received at different times which might cause an overlap with application deadline, what can I do as an applicant if the the deadline for submission of my application is earlier than date of the recipient of my SAT results?

  • Dear Sir

    I am currently a second year IB candidate at MUWC.
    my interest is in engineering, however, i am taking mathematics in SL.
    Would this be a disadvantage to my consideration for admission.

  • i am currently studying A level courses in The High School Affiliated to Renmin University of China, and currently studying in Grade 10. My GPA is 3.8 based on 4.0 scale. My TOEFL is 97 and will retake TOEFL in next few months.

    l like singing very much and won many honors and awards inculding regional level. However few international level awards. I wonder whether I have the advantage in applying for your music undergraduate program. if yes, do you have any recommended SAT subjects for me to take?

    Hope to hear from you soon.




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