In response to the COVID-19 pandemic, Miami University adopted a test-optional policy for applicants during the 2020-2021 admission year, but it has yet to announce what next year’s testing policy will be.
The test-optional policy allowed students to apply for admission without submitting scores from the SAT, ACT or SAT subject tests.
With the COVID-19 vaccination’s ambiguous rollout timeline and an unclear picture of how many standardized tests will be available this summer, many schools are announcing an extension of last year's policy.
From Harvard and Columbia to the University of Cincinnati, a wide range of colleges are opting out of test requirements for 2022. As equity issues with standardized testing continue to be exposed, several schools, such as the University of Chicago and the University of Dayton, are shifting to a permanent test-optional stance.
At Miami, next year’s policy has not yet been officially decided upon, but “a proposal to extend [the] test optional policy beyond 2021 will be making its way through the appropriate policy channels shortly.” Bethany Perkins, director of the Office of Admissions, wrote in an email to The Miami Student.
According to the university website, Miami “made the decision to go test-optional to ensure equitable opportunity for admission, scholarships, and honors programs.” Seeing that standardized testing availability is unlikely to return to pre-pandemic levels by this summer, it is possible that Miami may choose to go test-optional for 2022 as well.
Going test-optional means more than simply allowing students to apply without taking standardized tests. It forces colleges to adjust the way they evaluate their applicants for admission. Without test scores, universities must place more emphasis on other components such as grades, extracurricular activities, essays and letters of recommendation.
“Miami has always taken a holistic approach to evaluating students for admission,” the Miami University website states. “Standardized test scores have historically been just one indicator, among many, in our review process.”
The test-optional policy has especially significant implications for Miami applicants, as the university uses a bracket system that guarantees a scholarship range depending on the student’s standardized test scores and grade point average. With the foregoing of testing requirements, scholarship eligibility is now determined almost entirely by GPA.
“We have seen an increase this year in the number of students applying with a 3.95 GPA, our highest tier for merit scholarships,” wrote Perkins.
The policy did not affect the number of students admitted, but it did raise the amount of scholarships given out by leveraging applicants into a higher tier than they may have been with their test scores. Whether the monetary value of the scholarships have changed could not be confirmed by Miami.
Limited testing availability added another obstacle to the already difficult college application process for students across the country this year.
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“I wasn’t able to retake the ACT because of COVID, and I wanted to improve my score, but they kept canceling every opportunity that I had,” said Sasha Kidd, a high school senior from Cincinnati who applied to Miami in the fall.
Alana O’Dowd, a Miami applicant from Illinois, described her difficulties in getting a test as well.
“Over the summer … I kept getting kicked out of the ACT,” O’Dowd said. “I would sign up, and then a month before they would say, ‘We don’t have enough space for you.’”
Because of the difficulties scheduling a test, O’Dowd said she was glad Miami offered a test-optional policy, as she felt her GPA in high school reflected her capabilities as a student.
“I definitely liked it better that they had a test-optional policy” O’Dowd said. “I did [eventually] get scores, but I just felt like my GPA represented how I was as a student better than my test score did.”
Considering the unlikelihood that testing will resume as normal by this summer, it appears these testing difficulties will persist and affect next year’s pool of applicants as well. Whether Miami will respond to these challenges by extending their test-optional policy will soon be decided.
“I do not want to presume how the proposal will fare,” Perkins wrote, “but the evidence and case are very compelling that going test optional beyond 2021 best serves students still impacted by COVID.”