As a high school senior, Niki was told by her guidance counselor that she wouldn’t gain admission to Pace University in New York (her top choice) because of her low test scores. While her ACT was average, her SAT score was well below average. The counselor suggested community college and then transferring.
The option of not attending the college of her dreams because of a test score was not acceptable to Niki, especially since she was raised in a strong, supportive, independent, single-parent household and believed she could achieve anything. Therefore, she set out to prove her counselor wrong and applied to Pace, which she, fortunately, was offered admissions to.
In her time there, she made the Dean’s list every semester, was the president of her senior class, and, lastly, selected as commencement speaker. It was this experience that shaped Dr. Mendrinos of who she is today and why she is an advocate of test-optional admissions policies for colleges and universities. Is it also why Dr. Mendrinos is now considered a pioneer in the field of higher education, specifically as it pertains to enrollment management and moving colleges and universities test-optional!
Dr. Mendrinos’ research on predicting student college success beyond the SAT/ACT standardized tests have shown that non-cognitive factors such as persistence, motivation, self-awareness, and self-efficacy, among others, are the best predictors of college success.
This research aligns with national research and statistics that have been studied for years, dating back to the 1980s when Bates College was the first college to move test-optional under the direction of Bill Hiss, Dean of Enrollment Management at the time. Since that time, Hiss and colleagues have conducted several national studies that have found a number of outcomes supporting that standardized tests do not predict success in college.
One of the study’s major conclusions is that test-optional policies lead to an increase in underrepresented students in both the applicant pool and the first-year class. Hiss’s studies have also found that once in college, students who did not submit their test scores ended up graduating in 4 years at equivalent rates – or at many institutions – slightly higher rates than those who submitted test scores.
Dr. Mendrinos’ own research has contributed to colleges and universities in PA and Delaware to move test-optional for admissions consideration. This change has proven to be successful at each of the schools as the number of applicants applying test-optional and enrolling continues to grow.
In addition to her work with test-optional, she created her scholarship, the Dr. Niki Mendrinos Scholarship, which is awarded to a graduating senior from her alma mater, Kingston High School, who is pursuing a 2 or 4-year degree. Test scores are not considered.
In 2015, she developed and implemented a graduate certificate program for college access and success through Temple University’s College of Education, one of the first programs offered on the east coast. As an adjunct professor, she developed and taught one of the courses for the certificate; Strategic Enrollment Management.
Dr. Mendrinos has been involved with the Hugh O’Brian Youth (HOBY) Leadership seminar for the past 16 years. HOBY is a leadership conference for select high school sophomores who possess strong leadership skills and qualities, focusing on civic engagement. She was president of HOBY PA East from 2015-2017 and continues to attend yearly conferences as a panelist speaker. She is also an executive board member of Hellenic Hearts, a Greek-American organization that assists other Greek-American individuals in financial need from hardships and works closely with the Education Guidance Program, which offers yearly college workshops, career programs, and scholarship opportunities for our Greek-American youth.
Dr. Mendrinos is originally from upstate NY and holds a master’s and a doctoral degree from Temple University. She currently works with high school students and families in navigating the college process and will be rolling out her own college consulting business, College Counseling Headquarters, in May 2020.
Originally published on Cosmos Philly by Eleftherios Kostans. Video by Vasilis Keisoglou.