St. Mary’s University is the first in Texas to introduce permanently standardized, test-free approvals

Students applying to St. Mary’s University are no longer required to present standardized test scores. The university has chosen to become the first Texas institution to introduce permanent exam-free admissions.

Data has been collected over the past two years on the potential impact of the switch, an unexpected period of testing that began when the coronavirus pandemic halted much of the state’s standardized testing and caused ongoing problems with test sites, said Rosalind Alderman, vice president for the registration of management at St. Marien.

Many US universities did the same, and nearly 2,000 of them extended their exam-optional or non-exam admissions process for the coming school year in view of the pandemic-related test freezes.

But St. Mary’s is one of about 20 in the country that has made the test-free option permanent, according to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing.

“Our data really shows that the SAT or ACT score no longer really helps us predict our students’ success in the first year,” said Alderman. “We really had to worry, ‘If the high school GPA is so much more forward-looking than other factors, how can we make the most equitable process?'”

The change was not an overnight decision, officials said. There were many things to consider, including how to ditch the test requirement without creating the impression that academic expectations had changed.

For the 2020-21 school year, the university has approved a freshman class of 514 students with an average GPA of 3.59. Most had applied as part of the test-free option. In the fall of 2021, the incoming freshman class of 606 students had an average GPA of 3.61. Approximately 75 percent of them were admitted without submitting test results.

“We had the largest number of completed applications of all time for the 2019 cycle. When the 2020 cycle was over, things got a little lopsided, ”Alderman said. “But when we started planning for 2021, we wanted to test whether we would continue to see a similar number of applications. … We also wanted to closely monitor the academic quality, including at the GPA. “

The Freshman course 2022-2023 will be the first to be 100 percent test-free. The university continues to consider high school achievement, GPA, and class status, and continues to accept optional essays and letters of recommendation.

The idea is to get a good idea of ​​where students are from, what they’re doing, and where they’re headed, said Tony Sarda, St. Mary’s director for student admissions.

“If you looked at the entirety of a student’s submissions in an admission application, at the end of the day we had the feeling that in an exam-free holistic submission test we still had an excess of information that would enable us to really get good admissions.” for the student as well as for the university, “said Sarda, adding:” We try not to accept applicants – we try to accept alumni. “

Communication of the change to students, teachers and parents has been carefully carried out, officials said.

Part of the message to applicants – and to the faculty who may have wondered if the new students were cutting edge – is that academic excellence and level of rigor will remain the same, they said.

“We have faced some setbacks from students, just from the perspective of those who said, ‘Are you sure? I hear you. I understand you are saying that this test is now optional. But is optional really optional? ‘”Said Sarda. “We had seen that college admission conditioned students to believe that this test was important; second, that it was necessary; and third, that it told us something very critical about her. “

Especially in a year when application processes at many universities continue to be exam-optional or exam-free, Sarda hopes this will help applicants think about what to prioritize and where to apply instead of believing that colleges and universities have the full Have control.

“There’s this concept of ‘admissions are places that say no, not places that say yes,'” Sarda said. “But two-thirds of colleges across the country accept more than half of the students who apply for admission. And that’s one of the things I try to say to the students all the time. You will find more places that say yes to more people than places that say no. “

The trial-free process is new and some program offerings in areas where St. Mary’s works with outside institutions will need to be adjusted over time, Alderman said. This includes early entry into doctoral programs, medical schools, or dental schools that require test results.

“Maybe some of the data mining we do could help some of these other outside agencies change their thoughts and processes,” she said.

In the years ahead, the university will also monitor retention and graduation rates to see if students who choose St. Mary’s because of the trial-free option complete their career path, Alderman said. However, the overall goal of the private institution is to further expand access and make the four-year college path easier for more students.

“In San Antonio and the region, we cannot maintain our own success without training,” Alderman said. “My hope is that in the next few years students who did not consider the Four Year Path to be one of their first paths may be able to do so.”

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