ACT not the driving factor

We have a healthy respect – and a healthy skepticism – for test scores.

The conclusions drawn in the Oct. 17 editorial about ACT scores and how they are used in the first-year admissions process at the University are incorrect.

At the University, we have a healthy respect – and a healthy skepticism – for test scores. Admissions decisions are made on the basis of a holistic, overall assessment of each application. ACT scores are just one part of that review. The strongest consideration is given to the student’s grades, class rank and the strength of the curriculum. We also consider a variety of secondary factors, including participation in extracurricular college preparatory programs, outstanding high school or community involvement and extenuating circumstances.

The University’s admissions policies are designed to enhance the likelihood that admitted students will be retained and graduate in a timely manner. They are not designed to develop an admissions profile that will enhance our rankings in U.S. News & World Report. If we have a mantra in the admissions process, it’s retention and graduation.

We want our students to learn and succeed at the University. At the same time, we have paid considerable attention to access. Since 1992, the size of the first-year class has increased by 63 percent – more than 2,000 students. In order to enhance the retention and graduation of enrolled students, we must limit the size of the first-year class to approximately 5,300 new students each fall to make certain we have adequate resources, such as course availability, academic advising and campus housing available to serve students once they enroll.

Just one example of the University’s continued commitment to access is the Founders Opportunity Scholarship, in which the University will provide grants, scholarships and work-study to cover tuition and fees for first-year students who receive federal or state need-based educational grants.

In the admissions process, our goal is to admit students who are prepared for the challenges of an undergraduate education at one of the nation’s leading research universities. The small but steady increases in average ACT scores that we have seen over the past decade are a natural part of that process and also have resulted from increased interest in the University by prospective students. For example, first-year applicants have increased 94 percent since 1994, and first-year student of color applicants have increased 137 percent during this same time. Enrolling an academically qualified, diverse student body is essential to the University’s mission and is a major priority for the University. The academic and social environment of the campus is greatly enhanced by a diverse student body, and our students are better prepared to thrive in a multicultural world.

I reject the Daily editorial board’s implication that a focus on both academic preparation and diversity are inconsistent. As admission has become more competitive, we have also been making progress in enhancing the diversity of the student body. In this year’s first-year class, the proportion of students of color increased from last fall. The same is true for the number of students of color in the undergraduate student body, which also increased this year from last year and has increased every year since 1999. The Daily editorial board is correct that standardized test scores shouldn’t be the driving factor in our admissions policy. What the editorial got wrong is that test scores aren’t the driving factor now – and that won’t change.

Wayne Sigler is the University director of Admissions. Please send comments to [email protected]