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UW–Madison will not require standardized test scores for fall 2020 applicants

July 29, 2020 By Doug Erickson

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, standardized testing has not been universally available or easily accessible. In June, the College Board, which administers the SAT, said millions of students were unable to test in the spring. The College Board urged the higher education community to show flexibility in its admissions criteria. For this reason, through a waiver of University of Wisconsin System admissions policy, prospective freshmen applying this fall to the University of Wisconsin–Madison will not be required to submit ACT or SAT scores. The university will go before the board in August to seek a longer-term waiver of the test requirement.

“COVID-19 has made it extremely challenging for many students to take the ACT or SAT,” says Derek Kindle, vice provost for enrollment management. “This is a necessary decision to ensure that our admissions process remains equitable and to reduce some of the anxiety we know prospective applicants are feeling during this difficult time by moving to a test-optional approach this fall.”

UW–Madison is well-positioned to do that, says André E. Phillips, director of admissions and recruitment. The university has long taken a holistic approach to rendering admissions decisions, meaning it looks at a variety of aspects of a student’s life and evaluates applicants on what their high schools offer, how they’ve challenged themselves, and their goals and aspirations.

“Our admissions process has always considered the whole student, not just a test score,” Phillips says. “While we value strong academic ability, we also look for things like leadership experience, community service, extracurricular participation, creativity and passion. We want to see personal characteristics that will contribute true strength and diversity to the university.”

Applicants may choose to submit a score from a college-entrance exam.  Students will not be disadvantaged in the admission evaluation process if they choose to not have ACT or SAT scores considered during this time.  The university will use the opportunity to study how such a policy might impact the admissions evaluation process and the incoming class.  University researchers will gather and analyze data related to this change.

For students without standardized test scores, admissions officers will look to all the other factors that traditionally have been part of the evaluation of an applicant’s academic preparation and potential, including high school grades and curricular rigor, insight from counselors and teachers, and writing samples.

“We are confident we can maintain our high admissions standards while implementing this approach,” says Chancellor Rebecca Blank. “Nothing changes in our overall goal — to enroll a diverse freshman class of talented, intellectually curious, community-minded students who are excited about learning and ready to do great things in the world.”

Nicholas Hillman, an associate professor of educational leadership and policy analysis, will oversee the data gathering and evaluation. Hillman directs the Student Success Through Applied Research (SSTAR) Lab, which is housed in the university’s Division of Enrollment Management.

For more information on how the change affects the undergraduate application process, please see the Office of Admissions and Recruitment website.

Tags: admissions