Uo moving away from standardized tests

Illustration by Billy Lawson

The University of Oregon will switch to a test-optional application policy for those applying to UO for fall 2021, according to an announcement on Wednesday. 

Moving to this new policy will put UO in step with many of its Oregon public university peers, such as Oregon State University, which released its decision to move to test-optional admissions the same day. 

“First, we want it to encourage students who were so intimidated by the tests that they didn’t even apply to UO to realize we see things more broadly than that,” Jim Rawlins, UO director of admissions, said. “Second, we want students who were already interested and confident enough to apply, but never completed their file, to now complete it. We know that especially with first-gen and low-income students, the tests can be daunting.”

UO joins other universities like University of Arizona, Arizona State University, Washington State University, University of Texas-Austin, New York University and 1,080 other colleges and universities around the country that admit a substantial number of students without looking at the SAT or ACT, according to Fairtest.org.

Rawlins and Executive Vice Provost for Academic Affairs Janet Woodruff-Borden first brought this proposal to the UO Senate in February. They created a task force to review the option and benefits of giving applying students the choice to leave their standardized test scores off their application. 

Related:Test optional? UO considers ditching the SAT/ACT for new applicants

Though this decision has been in the works for months, it comes as SAT and ACT testing dates are being canceled across the country due to COVID-19 social distancing measures. The initial timeline for the decision-making process on this new policy had UO President Michael Schill and Provost Patrick Phillips making an official decision on April 8. 

Moving the decision up a few weeks was “absolutely” in response to the virus closing testing locations, Rawlins said. “We’re happy that this can become one less thing to worry about at a stressful time,” he said, adding that these testing cancellations have prompted many other universities to consider going test-optional for a short period of time to accommodate students affected. He said he is hoping this trial period might help a few of these universities realize this policy works for them and lead to permanent implementation of a similar policy to UO’s new one. 

The task force came back to the Senate in March with their recommendation to approve the policy — citing the negative effects of standardized testing on students from lower socioeconomic backgrounds and minority racial or ethnic groups. 

A report from the task force pointed to data from a College Board study that shows high school GPA as a greater indicator of a UO college student’s first-year success as compared to SAT scores. Rawlins said that in recent years, UO admissions hasn’t used standardized tests as a strong evaluator and instead leaned much heavier on a holistic review process. This new policy is just a natural extension of the way they currently do things, Rawlins said.

UO School of Law also made the decision in January to make admissions testing optional exclusively for UO alumni with a 3.5 GPA or better in undergrad. This change was made to increase the number of applicants into the law school as well as keep more UO students on a campus they’re familiar with as a way to increase student success.

Related: “UO School of Law will now waive LSAT for some UO students”

In spite of Wednesday’s announcement potential UO undergraduate students hoping to qualify for merit scholarships are encouraged to turn in test scores if they have them as it may give them access to automatic scholarships like the Summit or Apex scholarships. 

This test-optional policy will be applied to applications for the Clark D. Honors College and the Lundquist College of Business Direct Admit program. According to the recommendation report, the new policy would have exceptions, including applicants whose high school curriculum includes study at an unaccredited school or homeschool applicants whose high school record is ungraded, NCAA-recruited athletes and other students on a case-by-case basis.