UA upholds test-optional admissions through fall 2023

Grace Schepis | @GraceSchepisCW, Staff Writer

The COVID-19 pandemic sparked test-optional admissions across college campuses nationwide, and The University of Alabama plans to stick with this admissions system at least through fall 2023. 

This change, paired with the University’s addition to the Common App portal, led to a 70% increase in total applications in fall 2021. 

The SAT and ACT, paired with GPA, typically determine an applicant’s eligibility for any of the Capstone’s merit-based scholarships. When the University made standardized tests optional on the admissions application in fall 2020 for the following year, they adopted a more holistic approach to award funds, which includes a flowchart to guide administrators. 

“It’s been very successful for us,” Provost James Dalton said. “We’re not only looking at standardized test scores when they’re available but also looking at some of those other leadership and quality attributes of our undergraduate students.”

According to an Inside Higher Ed survey, test-optional admissions processes have also been found to broadly increase the accessibility of college for low-income, underrepresented and first-generation students. 

Dalton described this year’s freshman class as the “largest and most diverse” yet, with 7,593 first-time undergraduate students. Of this year’s incoming class, 84.9% are white, 12.4% Black, 6.1% Hispanic, 3% Asian, 0.4% Hawaiian or Pacific Islander, and 1.7% Alaskan or American India, with 0.8% unknown. 

Dalton said the test-optional admissions system does not make scholarships or admissions more subjective. 

“When you look at admissions, you look at every candidate in a more holistic way,” Dalton said. “And ACT and SAT scores are just more of a criteria we use.”

Dalton said there are about 5-10 subjective factors and a similar number of objective factors in admissions decisions at the University. These include leadership participation in student organizations at school, at church and in the community, as well as other extracurriculars such as sports and work experience.

The University’s admission site currently lists high school GPA, performance in core subjects, academic honors and standardized test scores as academic considerations, and leadership experience, volunteer experience, extracurricular activities, employment and nonacademic honors as additional nonacademic factors of acceptance. 

This year’s freshman class is home to 281 National Merit Scholars. This broke the University’s record, with a total of 940 scholars across campus.

The University had a record-setting 88.6% first-to-second-year retention rate, which excludes transfer and part-time students. From 2016 to 2019, that rate was 87%. 

Jillian Fields, the Student Government Association president and student representative to the board of trustees, highlighted excellence in athletics, student media, academics, SGA advisers, community service projects and the Rising Tide capital campaign. 

“As you can see, our students are never satisfied,” Fields said. “They continue to seek new heights. They’re innovators, leaders and champions, and I have no doubt that this culture of excellence will continue beyond college and into the careers of our graduates.” 

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