Students applying for LMU's fall 2021 semester will not be required to submit standardized test scores, as announced by the administration last week. This decision was prompted by challenges that the coronavirus pandemic poses to prospective students’ ability to take such tests. Nationwide test dates for both the SAT and ACT have been cancelled through at least June, affecting thousands of students who had been planning to take the SAT in March or May or the ACT in April.
According to Matthew X. Fissinger, assistant vice provost of undergraduate admission at LMU, this was one of the primary factors that motivated LMU’s decision to go test-optional for the fall 2021 application cycle.
“These are the testing dates that are most commonly utilized by juniors when they’re looking ahead to apply,” Fissinger said. “Even if the fall testing schedule survives unchanged, it’s impossible to think that all of those kids would be able to test in October and November; there just wouldn’t be enough room in test centers.”
He also said that the decision was made with students’ well-being in mind.
“Kids are pretty stressed out about everything relating to college, and we just wanted to reassure them that we weren’t going to complicate the process for them if they were worried about when they were going to take the test and how it was going to work,” Fissinger said.
Maddie Proctor, a high school junior, said that she has already taken the test and was not planning to take it again. However, Proctor says she is aware that the cancellations are a concern among her peers.
“I know that a lot of my friends and people in my grade were planning to take or retake the tests,” Proctor said. “It's really impacted them and their college search.”
The decision to go test optional in response to COVID-19 is being announced by a growing number of colleges and universities around the country. While some schools like LMU and the University of California system have said that the suspension of test score requirements is temporary and as of now just applies to 2021 applicants, other schools are making it a longer-lasting measure. Case Western Reserve University has made testing optional for fall 2021 applicants and are looking into extending this new policy for future applicants as well.
Tufts University recently announced plans to treat the shift to a test-optional admission process sparked by the pandemic as an experiment which will last for the next three years. Over this period of time they plan to study the impacts of the new policy and make a decision on whether to continue it based on their findings.
According to Fissinger, LMU is not currently considering becoming test-optional in the long term. However, he said he is not opposed to the idea and will be interested to see the effects of waiving test requirements for next year.
“We want to be able to study what impact this has on the admission process,” Fissinger said. “This is brand new territory for us, and we’ll certainly be open to continuing this policy, but we want to make the final decision on that based on what we learn this coming year.”
According to The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, close to 1,000 schools were already test-optional before the outbreak of COVID-19 began. In addition, more schools became test-optional in 2019 than any previous year, indicating a trend existing prior to the pandemic. Among the reasons schools gave for the decision is their concern over race and ethnicity test score discrepancies, according to Admissions Insider.
High school junior Emily Doyle said that while she does see the value of test scores in making admission decisions, she also understands the reasoning behind shifting away from them.
“I see how it's a good idea because it's like one baseline for every single student in America,” Doyle said. “But on the other hand, students who have more money and more resources can afford to take classes and take the tests more times to get a better score.”
Doyle and Proctor both are glad that many schools are taking measures such as waiving test requirements due to the difficulties caused by the coronavirus but are still worried about how this semester will affect their grades. Many high schools are taking steps such as evaluating students on a pass/fail basis or freezing grades as they were before the pandemic. Doyle said that she is concerned that the way her school has changed the grading system will negatively affect her GPA.
“I'm a little bit worried because I did not do well on an AP physics test,” Doyle said. “I don't have a great grade in AP Physics, and now it’s basically impossible for me to get my grade up.”
Fissinger adds that concerns like this are something that LMU will also take into consideration when evaluating fall 2021 applicants.
“Whatever decision their high school makes about how to grade this semester, we’ll respect,” Fissinger said. “We’re not going to hold them responsible for a decision that they didn’t make and couldn’t control.”
He stated that he feels that the accommodations LMU is making for applicants affected by the pandemic are in line with the University’s Jesuit spirit, mission and values.
Fissinger concluded, “It was a functional and practical decision, but it was also one that we felt was very consistent with what LMU is all about."