A new group of colleges was added to the list of unranked schools for America's Best Colleges 2008. It now includes those institutions that have indicated that they don't use the SAT or ACT in admission decisions for first-time, first-year, degree-seeking applicants.
U.S. News believes that because these schools don't use the SAT or ACT, it would be unfair to try to compare them statistically to the other schools that are part of the rankings. In total, there were just 70 schools that fell into the don't use SAT or ACT group, or 4.7 percent of the total number of schools U.S. News looks at.
So why does Gustavus Adolphus College in Minnesota seemingly not understand why U.S. News moved it to being unranked in the liberal arts category? The school says "this move evidently results from confusion [by U.S. News] over how and whether Gustavus uses test scores in its admission process."
U.S. News is not confused at all. Gustavus wasn't ranked because it said on its U.S. News forms that "our institution does not make use of SAT, ACT, or SAT Subject Test scores in admission decisions for first-time, first-year, degree-seeking applicants." The other 70 schools that answered that question the same way were also not ranked.
Did Gustavus make a mistake on our survey? On its website, the school says it's "test optional", which in the traditional sense means that it still does use the SAT or ACT in admission decisions for some students. It will be interesting to see what Gustavus Adolphus College says about its actual use of test scores in the future.
How did the test-optional schools answer the U.S. News survey? Some of the well-known ones like Bowdoin and Bates in Maine, Hamilton in New York, Mount Holyoke in Massachusetts, Dickinson in Pennsylvania, and Denison in Ohio are all still ranked by U.S. News because they said that they still use SAT/ACT scores in admission decisions, albeit for some students—the ones that submit them as part of their application.
Bottom line: U.S. News did include the "test optional" schools in the rankings.