UT Office of Admissions needs to adopt a test-flexible policy

Emily Caldwell

If you don’t want to submit your ACT or SAT scores with your college application, that’s not a problem — at NYU. The private university in New York City, which boasts one of the most flexible testing policies in the country, allows applicants to send in a variety of different materials to fulfill the standardized testing score requirement. Prospective students can send in everything from an International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma to multiple AP exam scores.

UT isn’t so flexible. If you’re applying as a freshman, you have the option to submit either your ACT or SAT scores. That’s it. The University, specifically the Office of Admissions, should consider transitioning to a test-flexible policy that gives students more options. This is an opportunity for UT to set the standard for public universities in the state of Texas and join the growing list of schools nationwide who are treating their applicants as more than just a test score. 

Miguel Wasielewski, the executive director of admissions, notes the almost unrivaled access high school students across the country have to the big standardized tests, which have become a staple of the American college application experience. 

“The SAT and ACT tests are widely accessible to all students, regardless of their high school or geographic location,” Wasielewski said via email. “Both the ACT and SAT also provide test fee waivers so that the test or its costs are not a barrier to students.”

SAT and ACT exams are indeed available to high school students nationwide and provide accommodations to low-income students. 

But whether or not a student performs well on these standardized tests is directly related to their socioeconomic level. Companies such as The Princeton Review stake their livelihoods on students investing in preparatory materials — their SAT private tutoring classes start at $150 per hour, and on their website they encourage students to invest in $1,400 packages that guarantee a 31+ score on the ACT. 

Preparatory materials are expensive, but they work. This means that a disproportionately large amount of the students who do well on standardized tests have the money to pay for the prep. Standardized test scores reflect more than just intelligence. 

If a prospective student can’t afford SAT or ACT prep materials, is that taken into account when UT reviews their application? According to Wasielewski, “the test scores are considered as a one of the many components of information in the holistic review.” Accepting other forms of test scores in addition to SAT and ACT scores, like those from the relatively inexpensive AP tests or an IB diploma, would benefit both applicants and the University. Most public high schools offer AP or IB-affiliated classes, but few offer standardized test score preparation. 

Standardized tests such as the ACT and SAT are not indicative of a prospective student’s overall intelligence or potential success, just of how well they can, or have been taught to, take tests. According to a study conducted across 33 test-flexible public and private universities in 2014, there are no distinguishable differences in cumulative GPAs or graduation rates between those who submit their standardized test scores and those who don’t. 

And from what it looks like, colleges have begun to acknowledge this — according to FairTest, a national organization promoting test-optional and test-flexible university admissions policies across the United States, there are “more than 1,000 accredited colleges and universities that do not use ACT/SAT scores to admit substantial numbers of students into bachelor-degree programs.” And the list is growing. 

NYU is a huge school, and consistently receives more admission applications than UT — yet its admissions office has adopted an impressively flexible policy when it comes to which test scores applicants are allowed to submit. If UT reviews all of its applicants as holistically as it says it does, you can’t help but wonder why such a stringent test policy is implemented in the first place. 

Caldwell is a Latin American studies and journalism sophomore from College Station.