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UT Austin will again require standardized test scores for admission

UT Austin is reinstating its standardized testing requirement for admissions starting with the Fall 2025 semester.
Michael Minasi
KUT News
UT Austin is reinstating its standardized testing requirement for admissions starting with the Fall 2025 semester.

UT Austin will once again require students to submit their SAT or ACT test scores for admission, the university announced Monday. UT put the requirement on hold in spring 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

The requirement will go into effect for the fall 2025 semester.

UT President Jay Hartzell said reinstating the requirement is part of the university’s goal to attract top students and ensure they’ll be successful in college. He said UT has found the test score is a key predictor of student success.

"But also a predictor of where we need to be more diligent, supportive of the students that come our way and do all we can to position them to succeed," he said. "If we're going to get to where we believe we can go in terms of graduation rates and success this is an important tool for us to get there."

He said UT had been looking at the impact of the test-optional policy.

"After a year we found that students who did not submit their scores were less likely to perform as well," he said.

UT is not alone in reinstating standardized test requirements. While many colleges and universities stopped requiring scores during the pandemic, several elite institutions have changed course on their test-optional policies. So far this year, selective universities such as Yale, Brown and Dartmouth shared plans to require standardized test scores again.

Other schools in Texas are still test-optional. Texas State does not require SAT or ACT scores for first-time applicants. Texas A&M does not require them for freshmen but encourages students to submit scores if they have them.

UT had a record 73,000 applicants last year, and the university estimates that about 90% took a standardized test. Forty-two percent of freshman applicants for the fall 2024 semester asked for their SAT or ACT scores to be considered as part of their application. Nearly half of the students applying under Texas’ auto-admit rule — because they’re in the top 6% of their high school class — also asked that their standardized testing scores be considered.

Some current UT students said they are wary of the test scores being required again.

Freshman Alexa Bradford did not initially submit her scores. A couple of months after she applied, though, the School of Engineering asked her to submit her math score, which she did. And, she got in.

Still, she doesn't think an SAT score is the best indicator of what students can achieve.

"I don't think the SAT is a great representation of how you are overall as a person," she said. "I don't think one test should determine that on one day or one specific thing."

Blanca Cuesta, a sophomore who is also studying engineering, did not submit her test scores when she applied. She said she isn't a big fan of requiring the SAT or ACT for admission and she does not think they say much about how a student will do once they're in college.

"I wouldn't say my SAT scores were bad, but they weren't crazy high," she said. "But I think I'm doing just fine in my major here."

Jessica Meave said she didn't submit her test scores, either. She pointed out that future applicants who will have to meet this requirement were also affected by the pandemic.

"A lot of those kids were COVID kids, too, and they didn't get to see the importance of the SAT scores," she said. "They were told it doesn't really matter."

In contrast, Wane Jeng, a junior at UT, said he thinks requiring the test scores is helpful. But he said scores should just be one piece of what the university considers in the admissions process.

"There is other important stuff that colleges should [consider], especially extracurriculars, like what you did in high school," he said.

UT said the scores will be just one part of a “holistic” college admissions process.

Hartzell and Miguel Wasielewski, vice provost for admissions, addressed concerns that requiring SAT and ACT scores could be an advantage for students who can afford test prep. Both said scores will be evaluated in context, for example, if a student is coming from a school with fewer resources to prepare students for standardized tests.

"We know that students come from a very different set of backgrounds," Wasielewski said, "and so when we have our holistic reviewers look at files, the first thing they do is understand what the profile is of the high school, what circumstances the students are coming from and what their environment is like."

While scores will not change the outcome for automatic admits, Wasielewski said, UT can use the test results to help match students with majors and identify who might benefit from additional support.

UT said it is making other changes to the admissions process, including giving students more options for what they can write about in the required admissions essay. The university is also encouraging students to get letters of recommendation from outside their high schools, if they decide to submit one.

Wasielewski said the recommendation letters can be a burden for high school teachers and counselors. He added that the information included in those letters is also often reflected elsewhere in the application.

"During a holistic review, there's only so much time to review that file and so to the extent that things can be original within that application, I think that does more for the student," he said.

Other changes include a new Early Action program that will give students who apply by Oct. 15 the guarantee of a decision by Jan. 15. The Early Action deadline for summer/fall 2023 admissions was Nov. 1. UT said it’s also introducing a waitlist for students who are not automatically admitted.

All of the changes will begin with the application period that starts Aug. 1 and ends on Dec. 1.
Copyright 2024 KUT News. To see more, visit KUT News.

Becky Fogel is the editor and producer of statewide newscasts for the Texas Newsroom. She previously worked for the shows Texas Standard and Science Friday. She got her start in radio at KWBU-FM in Waco.