The measure of a woman's ambition and intelligence is so much more than a standardized test score. For this reason, Mills College will no longer require Scholastic Aptitude Test or American College Testing scores as part of the application criteria for admission. Effective Jan. 1, 2016, students applying for enrollment in the fall of 2016 have the option to submit these test scores, but doing so is not a requirement.

Mills joins nearly 200 other top-tier schools that have made standardized test scores optional, including institutions like Wesleyan University in Connecticut, Wake Forest University in North Carolina and Smith College in Massachusetts. These institutions, and others, have found the best predictor for success in higher education is not a standardized test but a student's high school record, as well as their grade-point average. The truth is some high-potential students with good grades and a history of success in high school just don't test well.

In addition, many students don't have the financial resources for expensive test preparation courses. These students should not be excluded from Mills College on the basis of a low SAT score.

Mills will, however, continue a rigorous examination of all applicants. Do they possess intellectual curiosity? Are they thoughtful? Have they demonstrated leadership skills? Are they creative? Did they get good grades in high school and take difficult classes and succeed in them?


We hope the move to an SAT and ACT test-optional application process will also bring more racial and socioeconomic diversity to campus. Studies show that socioeconomically disadvantaged high school students and people of color fare worse on standardized tests for a variety of reasons. While Mills is doing a good job enrolling students of color (51 percent of the undergraduate student body in the fall of 2015), we believe we can do better. We don't see the change to a test-optional process as the only answer, but we hope it will bring down one more barrier to higher education.

In addition, Mills will soon sign the Oakland Promise College Pathway Partnership along with 11 other Northern California colleges and universities that are committing to make higher education an attainable goal for every Oakland student. In order to accomplish that goal, we will work together to address challenges that have blocked student success, including issues with placement testing. Signatories will also pledge to increase the percentage of Oakland students who graduate from college within six years of graduating high school.

A 2014 study found students enrolling at test-optional colleges who chose not to submit SAT and ACT scores were more likely to be students of color, students with economic need, or the first in their families to attend college. The study, "Defining Promise: Optional Standardized Testing Policies in American College and University Admissions," looked at 123,000 students nationwide at 33 universities and colleges. It found no statistical differences in either college GPA or graduation rates between students who submitted test scores and those who did not.

Since its founding in 1852, Mills has been committed to providing women with access to education of the highest caliber and to overcoming social barriers that exclude women from educational and career opportunities. Mills College prides itself on its commitment to diversity and inclusivity. It is our hope that the test-optional policy will further this proud legacy.

Alecia DeCoudreaux is president of Mills College.