Through fall 2024, students will no longer be required to submit standardized test scores with their applications to UNC-System schools, the Board of Governors recently announced.
The Board discussed its decision to waive standardized testing — typically the ACT and SAT — in its April 7 meeting. The waived admissions testing began for 2021 applicants as a response to the COVID-19 pandemic, and the policy has continued to be extended.
"While test scores can be a useful factor, we are sensitive that our current applicants' studies have been interrupted by the pandemic and support the decision of the Board of Governors to extend this waiver and keep us in line with the majority of our peer institutions,” Vice Provost for Enrollment Rachelle Feldman said in an email statement.
First-year Mariana Chavez said getting rid of the mandated submission of standardized testing will expand the University's equity.
“I think that testing, and standardized testing in general, is very inequitable and it's very inaccessible for a lot of people,” Chavez said. “It's rooted in this institution that obviously favors people with a higher socioeconomic status.”
She said applicants with higher household incomes can afford tutoring and have the option to pay to take the test multiple times.
“I feel like having a good ACT score is not accessible to everyone, and that’s been important even before COVID,” Chavez said. “I'm just a little disappointed that it took a whole pandemic for people to realize how little test scores should matter in the process.”
In addition to socioeconomic factors, students also experience stress around the test and applying to colleges.
Sophomore Aiden Keller said he took the SAT and ACT cumulatively more than five times and still was not completely satisfied with his results.
“It was always kind of a stress for me — just having that number barrier in mind,” Keller said. “Because they tell you college is so holistic in its review, but then they also tell you if you're not within that range, you kind of can't get in.”
Keller said he was worried about the stress of standardized test scores translating into other areas of the college application process.
Without the numerical component of test scores, GPA will be more heavily emphasized, he said. Keller is worried about the varying range of high school environments, as it will be hard to compare GPAs that are weighted differently within respective districts, states and types of schools.
Now that standardized testing is temporarily optional for UNC-System applicants through 2024, Keller said there should also be consideration for students without many extracurriculars.
He suggested that there should be a reserved spot for students who work hard on their grades and standardized test scores, but aren’t as involved outside of an academic setting.
Some students, like junior Taylor Gregitis, are concerned about the hyperfocus on application elements such as activities and essays. She said that, without the standardized testing average scores, admissions offices will have to look at similar extracurriculars and GPAs on applications to determine a standard acceptance criteria.
“I could see a scenario where admissions then has a cookie-cutter applicant of certain extracurriculars and certain GPAs, that they start to rely on instead of SAT and ACT scores,” Gregitis said. “Which I think is a danger to diversity if they're only looking for certain procedures and stuff to stick out in an application.”
Gregitis has concerns about the application components without standardized test scores, but she said UNC has always seemed to accept students with interesting backgrounds and unique extracurriculars.
"I think it'll allow for some of those people that have awesome history and volunteer work and extracurriculars to be able to get in without such an amazing SAT score that doesn't really show much of who you are as a person," she said.
The BOG's decision will be active through fall 2024 for the entire UNC System.
"It’s Carolina being more holistic, which I think is a good thing for the future because, obviously, everyone doesn’t learn the same way," Keller said.
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