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OPINION: To be an elite school, USF must be more selective

USF must be more selective in admissions to foster university growth and encourage higher national rankings. ORACLE PHOTO/LEDA ALVIM

The U.S. News and World Report named USF as one of the top 15 colleges that still require test scores for admission on Oct. 9.

Many universities have adopted test-optional policies as of late. USF must retain its test-required policy and implement more demanding admissions standards, including increasing  minimum accepted SAT scores from 1250 to 1350. This will result in higher university rankings and overall academic success.

USF is on a mission toward excellence. In 2013, it was ranked 170th in national universities by the U.S. News and World Report. This year, USF has jumped to the 89th spot

To achieve this development as a school, many goals were set and achieved. From 2013 to 2023, USF nearly doubled its endowment. The Judy Genshaft Honors College opened, graduation rates doubled, research activity grew and fundraising has generated millions.

At her inauguration, President Rhea Law emphasized her goals for USF to join AAU and become a top 25 public university. One of these goals was accomplished this June when USF joined the AAU, made up of 69 prestigious schools leading in research and innovation. 

These achievements have demonstrated that USF is both influential and reputable, but there is still improvement to make into the top 25.

Standardized test scores and high school GPA are the most important academic metrics applicants are assessed for, according to Princeton Review. In requiring test scores in applications and raising the minimum accepted SAT score from 1250 to 1350, USF can increase the average student’s academic profile, thus increasing the university’s ranking.

Universities with greater average scores tend to rank higher. Test results are considered by most college ranking sites including US News & World Report’s Best Colleges Report where test scores are weighted for 5% of the rank, Princeton Review’s Best 389 Colleges and Forbes’ America’s Top Colleges. 

UF is another state university roughly the same size as USF, but is currently ranked sixth out of all public universities. Among other scoring factors, UF’s SAT range sits at 1350 to 1490. In admitting students with higher scores and requiring academic excellence, USF will have the opportunity to become a top public university as UF has done. 

Higher rankings can improve the university’s reputation and visibility, increasing its appeal to students. The prestige, global recognition and the promise of a quality education make top-rated universities a compelling choice for top-performing prospective students. In turn, successful students reflect well on the university. 

Some, like the National Education Association, argue that standardized tests are not representative of intelligence and that they should be replaced with more effective performance-based tests. 

While standardized tests may not be an objective measure of intelligence, they do provide a predictive measure on student success in college. Analyzing SAT and high school GPA together is the best way to predict future academic performance, according to a 2021 report in Educational Assessment. 

By requiring higher standardized test scores in the application process, USF will likely be able to facilitate the success of the student body through improved college grades and an increased graduation rate. And, student success leads to university success.

The recent achievements of the university and its current direction are impressive. USF must rely on test scores as a means to continue promoting university growth. In doing so, it will nurture high-achieving students, talented staff, accomplished faculty and prospective donors. 

While applicants are more than just their scores, those scores are invaluable as USF continues its upward trajectory in national university rankings.