The one test of the year that high school juniors and seniors spend weeks to months studying for was not mandatory this year at some colleges, including the University of Miami.
Because of the coronavirus pandemic, standardized tests were canceled or rescheduled, making it difficult for tests to be accessible to students. This prompted many universities to switch to a test-optional feature for students who applied for fall 2021 admission.
“Covid certainly played a hand in how schools looked at their testing requirements,” said Nate Crozier, assistant vice president of admissions at UM. “You’ll see that quite a few hundred in fact switched their testing requirements in response to cancellations of SAT and ACT that began last spring, and frankly continued through the summer and fall.”
UM was among more than 600 schools that switched to test-optional for the incoming fall 2021 class, according to the Common Application. And UM has decided to continue the test-optional admissions policy for next year, Crozier said.
Angelica Tacoronte, a Miami Coral Reef High School senior, submitted her test scores and was admitted to UM.
“I feel like having that pressure, like scoring well, it just stresses students out,” said Tacoronte, who initially was not going to submit her scores. She changed her mind after getting a score she was proud of. “I feel like having that test-optional feature just helps students focus on their achievements and just themselves as a student.”
Achievements and extracurricular activities are exactly what UM admissions is looking for, Crozier said.
UM uses a “holistic approach” in reviewing applications, he said. For example, admissions staff will look at the applicant’s GPA, high school rigor of curriculum, letters of recommendation and other aspects. However, with some students submitting their scores and some who did not, admissions had to change their approach to reading applications, Crozier said.
“We’re really going to dive into how the student has performed in his or her classes,” Crozier said. “Again, we look at curriculum rigor within the context of that student’s high school environment. Beyond that, you know, the response to the essay prompts and whether it’s the common app essay prompt or the supplemental essay prompt, it’s very important.”
The removal of required test scores did not only relieve stress of student applicants but encouraged many to apply to colleges. As a result, many colleges and universities saw an increase in applications. According to the Common Application, universities received 11 percent more applications nationwide.
Crozier said UM’s approximate 42,000 applications were up 5 percent. Of those applicants, more than half of the students did not submit test scores. He said admitted students represent about half who submitted test scores and half who did not.
The surge of applications also led to an increase of rejections and students on the waitlist.
Emily Araujo, also a Coral Reef High School senior, was waitlisted at UM after applying without submitting test scores. She said the test-optional feature opens the door for so many students who may not be able to score well on standardized tests.
“It’s giving an opportunity to several other people because there are some people that aren’t good test takers,” Araujo said. “I’m not a good test taker but I felt like I had a good opportunity to make it into UM because I didn’t get such a good ACT score, but I am a very good student.”
Crozier said selectivity has increased at UM.
“So, if you go back several years, we were admitting 36 to 38 percent of those who applied,” Crozier said. “Right now, we are at just under 30 percent acceptance rate. It’s actually 28 percent.”
This has made this year’s applicants the most competitive in the university’s history, Crozier said. Meanwhile, UM admissions office is anticipating the arrival of the incoming class of fall 2021.
“We have a great group of current and incoming students,” Crozier said. “We’re super excited about the fall 2021 incoming class.”