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U adopts permanent test-optional admission policy

The University of Utah is leading the state in ensuring access to all students through its permanent adoption of a test-optional policy for admission. Prospective students still have the option to submit SAT or ACT standardized test scores as part of the application process, but they are not required for consideration.

Senior Associate Vice President for Enrollment Management Steve Robinson says the university’s approach provides better access to higher education for a diverse student body. And with the approval of the Academic Senate and Board of Trustees last month, the university’s admissions process will remain test-optional indefinitely.

“In the years since we first implemented a test-optional policy, we have not seen a decrease in the quality of students we admit to our university,” said Robinson. “Additionally, the university has seen year-over-year increases in applications which demonstrates that students recognize the university as a strong academic fit.”

The university sees being test-optional as a strong part of its holistic admissions process.

“The holistic approach means we take all of the information students submit in their application and meld that together to make a decision,” Robinson said.

University leadership initially adopted the change in 2020 as a temporary pilot study in response to the pandemic, as access to SAT/ACT testing sites and facilities became limited for students. The change this spring makes permanent the practice of allowing undergraduate applicants to decide whether or not to submit test scores for admission to the university.

There are a few exceptions to the test-optional policy. For example, students who do not earn a grade point average (GPA) that is directly comparable to other high school students, such as those who have a GED or those from non-accredited high schools, will still be required to submit a standardized test score.

The U is not alone in adopting a test-optional policy. Following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, educational institutions across the United States allowed students to submit applications without test scores. While some have recently brought back testing requirements, most have continued to allow students to choose whether to submit scores.

Not requiring students to submit test scores allows students to decide if they feel the score best reflects their abilities. It can also prevent students from self-selecting whether or not they’d get into a certain school. If the cost of taking the test or test prep is preventative for a student, they are still able to apply to college. Removing this barrier is one way to increase the number of students who not only apply to higher education institutions but who complete their degrees as well.

“We want to allow as many students as we can to earn degrees from our university,” Robinson said. “We have many different ways to gauge college readiness and by improving our process, we can help more students achieve their dreams.”