Students applying to the University of Connecticut won’t need to submit SAT or ACT test scores for the next three years. The school announced Wednesday that it will join a growing number of colleges around the country that have made the change since the coronavirus pandemic, which is expected to interfere with students’ testing plans.
The state’s public flagship now joins many of Connecticut’s private universities, including Fairfield, Sacred Heart, Quinnipiac and Wesleyan, which had already waived the requirement for most applicants.
UConn will pilot the program for three years, with applicants for fall 2021 through fall 2023 able to opt out of sending their scores. At the end of that period, they’ll make a permanent recommendation, said Nathan Fuerst, Vice President for Enrollment Management.
High standardized test scores as applicants have been predictive of student success at UConn, but lower test scores have not been as reflective of how the student will perform in college, Fuerst told the Board of Trustees Academic Affairs Committee in a phone meeting. Other factors, including grade point average, have been more predictive, he said.
He also pointed to the disparities between white students and minority students, and between high-income and low-income students. “Research has shown that test scores are highly correlated to income, and there are apparent disparities found between White and Asian students versus African American and Hispanic / LatinX peers,” UConn said in a news release.
Interim Provost John Elliott said the school has been considering the change for several years.
“Examination dates for the SAT and ACT have been canceled since March,” Fuerst said. In a typical year, 2 million high school juniors would have taken the test by now this spring, but currently, less than half as many have completed the tests, he said. Students have also experienced interruptions in their classes that prepare them for the exams, creating “undoubtedly more disparities.”
Students can choose to submit their scores, but will not be penalized if they do not include them in the application. The review processes for the honors program and merit scholarships will also be revised to include the test-optional policy.
In determining whether to make the change permanent, Fuerst said the university will review and compare student success rates for students who did and did not submit test scores, as well as the impact on access for first-generation, low-income and underrepresented minority students.
President Tom Katsouleas told the board that at other universities, the policy has resulted in larger and more diverse applicant pools.
UConn’s move follows dozens of others across the country that have made the change in the wake of the pandemic, including the University of California system, Cornell University, Boston University and Northeastern University. The university is the first in Connecticut to waive the requirement due to the coronavirus, but many private schools had already done so for many or all of their programs.
“Many private, non-profit colleges have already adopted test-optional admissions policies – prior to the onset of COVID-19 –for the majority of undergraduate programs,” said Jennifer Widness, president of the Connecticut Conference of Independent Colleges. “There are occasionally some programmatic exceptions at certain institutions, such as nursing and other health sciences.”
The University of New Haven is test-optional for programs other than forensic science and the honors program, and Quinnipiac University is test optional for all programs other than the Schools of Health Sciences and Nursing.