Amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, universities across the nation have waived their standardized testing requirements for prospective students. Texas Tech joined this cohort last month, no longer requiring ACT or SAT scores from applicants for general admission in the Fall 2020 semester.
“(Standardized test scores) are not required, although we strongly recommend students who have previously taken the ACT or the SAT to submit those scores to us because that is still a requirement for scholarship purposes and for restricted majors that are on campus,” Jason Hale, interim executive director for undergraduate admissions, said.
The decision to waive SAT/ACT scores for general admission came following the cancellation of spring test dates by both the College Board and ACT. According to the College Board website, SAT administrations will not begin until August, at which point they are tentatively scheduled to occur once a month. Similarly, ACT has cancelled its exams until its next national test date scheduled for July 13, as CDC and local guidelines for safety allow.
Tech’s waiver for the SAT/ACT is designed to allow students who are now unable to take standardized exams to have timely access to programs such as orientation and housing that traditionally require admission with test scores, Hale said. This waiver is particularly relevant for current high school seniors planning to attend Tech in the fall who have not yet submitted standardized test scores.
“When we made the decision to go test optional, we had about 900 students that had completed everything else on their file but had not sent a test score into us and we have contacted those students and our admissions counselors are working with those students to talk about their options of having their file reviewed,” Hale said.
There will likely be more high school seniors in this situation, he said, as students are still currently applying to Tech for the fall. Some of these students may have past test scores they can submit, Hale said. But, for those that do not who are now unable to obtain test scores, they can be admitted and sign up for orientation and housing following a test-optional, holistic review process.
In this process, admissions is looking at everything students have completed in high school, including their transcripts, the coursework they have taken, the rigor of their coursework in terms of AP classes, IB classes, or dual credit as well as supplied letters of recommendation, he said.
In addition, extracurricular activities, leadership experiences, civic/service activities, socioeconomic background, family educational background, special talents/awards and diversity of experience and background are factors in admission, according to the Undergraduate Admissions website.
For students without test scores, these alternate factors are certainly important, but that does not mean more weight will be placed on letters of recommendation or a transcript or any other single item, Hale said.
"One of the things that we try to do in admissions is to really, I know we say this a lot, but to really make sure it’s a holistic approach and to make sure that we don’t put too much emphasis on one thing or the other, that we look at each student profile and what that student might bring to the institution,” he said.
Students without test scores will not be at a disadvantage for general admission because of the holistic review process, Hale said. But, lack of standardized testing can impact students in other ways including scholarship distribution.
Students entering Tech in Fall 2020 will not be eligible for scholarships if they have not submitted standardized test scores, Shannon Venezia, managing director of Financial Aid, said.
“For Fall 2020, we will not be changing our processes for students,” she said. “For students who have tested we will go ahead and continue to accept their test scores and we encourage students to get all of their test scores in with us so we can make those scholarship determinations.”
In a normal admissions cycle, the deadline for standardized test scores is April 15, but the deadline is being extended due to the current circumstances, she said.
“We’re going to continue to accept their test scores through the summer,” she said. “We recognize that this is a very difficult time for students and families and even high schools, so we want to go ahead and continue those standardized test scores really until right before classes start.”
For students unable to obtain test scores, there is no alternative scholarship program at Tech, she said. But, there is a robust need-based financial aid package students without test scores are still eligible for through the FAFSA.
In addition to the impact on scholarships, a lack of standardized testing scores can also affect course placement and meeting Texas Success Initiative exemptions, according to the Undergraduate Admissions website.
The Texas Success Initiative, or TSI, is a state requirement, not an admissions requirement, Hale said. SAT and ACT scores, if they are high enough, can allow students to meet these requirements, allowing them to take entry-level courses at Tech.
“Essentially if a student scores below those benchmarks (on the SAT or ACT), then they may have to take remedial courses here at Texas Tech, or they’ll take the TSI test prior to orientation and completion of that test or meeting the scores on that test would then allow a student to take those entry level courses for their program of study,” Hale said. “So it’s a way to ensure that students are prepared for the courses that they’re going to take.”
Standardized tests are not the only way to be exempt from the TSI, Hale said. He encourages students to go to the TSI website and see whether they are exempt. Students can check their TSI status at http://www.depts.ttu.edu/registrar/private/tsi/.
Another issue that arises when students have no standardized tests on file is being accepted into specific majors or restricted programs. The Rawls College of Business, the Whitacre College of Engineering and specific majors within other colleges only accept students who meet assured admission requirements based on test scores and class rank, he said.
A full list of those programs and majors is available at http://www.depts.ttu.edu/admissions/apply/status/first_freshmen/.
If students want to be directly admitted into these programs when they are admitted to the university, they have to meet these requirements and have test scores on file prior to their orientation session. But, not having test scores does not mean students can’t join the program they want as a current student at a later time.
"They would meet with their academic advisor during orientation, they would talk to them about the program that they need to go into and what they need to do and the requirements as a current student to get into those restricted programs,” he said.
If students have questions regarding the admission process, they should reach out, Hale said. Undergraduate Admissions has been hosting virtual events for students and families and are working to make the admissions process more accessible.
“What we’ve found is that the families are really thirsty for knowledge,” he said. “They want to know what’s going on and want to be able to get the answers they are looking for, so we’ve really been trying to get the word out and help, so I think it’s kind of eased some of those concerns.”
Tech, and the people behind Scholarships and Financial Aid are here for students, Venezia said.
“We understand that this is a very difficult time and it’s new for all of us too and we’re working through this together,” she said.