UMass makes standardized tests optional for prospective first-year students

UMass admissions will become test-optional for the next three years

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Collegian File Photo

By Kamari Weaver, Collegian Correspondent

For incoming college students hoping to submit an application to universities throughout the country, the college-admissions process has become more uncertain in the face of the COVID-19 pandemic. In previous years, prospective students were required to take a standardized test such as the SAT/ACT in order to be considered for admission at the University of Massachusetts.

Instead, UMass announced that it will make standardized tests optional for its first-year entering applicants. This policy will go into effect for students seeking admission for the spring 2021 term and will continue through at least the spring 2023 term.

UMass has been closely monitoring how the current health crisis is affecting the safety and accessibility of such a test for incoming students, according to a press release from the UMass News and Media relations.  The University says that many testing organizations have already canceled 2020 SAT/ACT test dates, and it is likely that this will continue through the fall of 2020 and possibly into 2021.

James Roche, vice provost for enrollment management, said in the press release that “UMass draws applications from throughout the world, and few, if any, states are currently offering testing sites that provide the access and safety that students, families, and schools have come to expect.”

“This is especially true for students who already encounter barriers in pursuit of college education, including under-represented minority, first-generation, and low-income students,” Roche added.

In previous years, UMass has used a holistic review process to evaluate applicants, where many factors including: a student’s GPA, personal qualities, co-curricular involvement, among others, are considered comprehensively. Therefore, the University suggests that students who choose to not submit test scores will not be penalized nor disadvantaged regardless of their intended major.

However, if test scores are not submitted, the University may weigh a student’s GPA higher than if they were to submit both a GPA and a SAT/ACT score.

According to Roche, “The university’s research shows that of the separate components, the high school GPA is a stronger predictor of student performance, persistence and success; however, it is also known that the combination of the two components provides an even stronger predictor than either the GPA or test score alone.”

In regard to the research the University has conducted, UMass News and Media relations said, “The university has analyzed three years of data and more than 100,000 applicant records to develop a formula for its test-optional assessment that uses the high school GPA as the base. For applicants who either have or will submit test scores, UMass Amherst will compare the result of the formula with and without the test score included and give the applicant the highest value of the two.”

This adjusted method for evaluating prospective students will also apply to international students and student athletes, but it has not yet been decided if it will apply to homeschool students. The University comments that if a student can safely take the SAT/ACT, they are encouraged to do so.

“We look forward to using the test-optional approach during this period to learn more about the relationship between high school grades and standardized test scores, and to develop even better models for predicting student success in college,” said Roche. “Our mission is to identify and recruit students who can grow and thrive at UMass Amherst, progressing to earn their degree as effectively and efficiently as possible.”

Additional information about UMass’s test-optional approach can be found at https://www.umass.edu/admissions/test-optional-policy.

 

Kamari Weaver is a Collegian correspondent and can be reached at [email protected]