Texas A&M University-San Antonio will not require incoming first-year students with a GPA of 2.75 or higher to submit their SAT or ACT scores, to accommodate canceled tests during the pandemic.
The temporary policy will be effective for applicants applying for the 2021-2022 school year.
Brandy McLelland, vice president of enrollment management, said the university made the decision to support students unable to test due to cancellations from COVID-19. McLelland said applicants for the 2021-2022 school year are not given the same testing opportunities as those who were admitted for fall 2020.
“Our intention of waiving that score for this year is simply to remove a roadblock for something that they don’t have any control over due to the pandemic,” McLelland said.
Alexandria Licea, senior at East Central High School, is applying to A&M-San Antonio through ApplyTexas.org. She had signed up for two SAT tests and both were canceled due to COVID-19.
Licea knew she wanted to stay in Texas, so the university’s decision piqued her interest. If this decision had not been made, “applying would be the last thing on my mind right now,” Licea said.
“It’s definitely taken stress off knowing that I don’t necessarily need it,” Licea said.
Testing exemptions and eligibility
Applicants are still encouraged to submit their test scores as a part of their application, McLelland said. Doing so may exempt the student from TSI testing if they meet the minimum scores required on their SAT or ACT.
To be eligible for TSI exemption, students must score a 480 or higher in the Evidence Based Reading/Writing portion of their SAT, and a score of 530 or higher for the mathematics section, according to Melissa De Witt, TSI Coordinator for A&M-San Antonio.
A student must have an overall composite score of 23 on their ACT and a 19 in the English portion and a 19 in the Math portion to be eligible for TSI exemption. If the student scores a 19 on either their English or Math portion but does not have a composite score of 23, they will not be eligible for TSI exemption.
Texas students who have taken the STAAR EOC exam in Algebra II or English III and earned a 4000 or higher are also eligible for exemption, De Witt said. However, these tests are optional so not every student may have taken it, depending on their high school.
Licea said she was glad that schools like A&M-San Antonio are making test scores optional because it accommodates students like herself who were not able to test, but it also gives students who did take it the opportunity to show off their scores.
A comparison of test SAT/ACT scores from fall 2019 to fall 2020 for students enrolled as of July 2020 are as follows:
|Value||Fall 2019||Fall 2020*|
|Average ACT Combined||74||77|
|Average SAT Verbal||445/513||580/527|
|Average SAT Math||450/493||465/506|
Source: Brandy McLelland, Vice President of Enrollment Management
University president discusses changing standards
The announcement comes after the university raised admission standards for incoming first-year students for the 2020-2021 school year. The university admitted a higher percentage of students, even with the higher admission standards. In fall 2019, A&M-San Antonio admitted 44% of applicants, whereas in fall 2020, 50% of applicants were admitted, McLelland said.
President Cynthia Teniente-Matson said in a Zoom interview Sept. 9, the university was on track before COVID-19 to break records with the increase of admission standards, expecting as many as 1,000 freshmen. However, the current number of freshmen attending fall 2020 is 639 as of Sept. 9, 70 fewer students than last academic year.
“The reason for that, our hypothesis is, students, not all but most, chose to stay closer to home,” Matson said. The university recruited in cities and regions such as Houston, El Paso, Austin and South Texas, but Matson said many of those students chose to remain closer to home because of the surge in COVID-19 cases that San Antonio experienced in the summer.
The waiver in SAT/ACT scores had nothing to do with the academic standards, as the university’s numbers in admissions continue to rise, Matson said. The current freshman class is a “greater percentage” of top 25% and the university also saw an increase in admissions of top 10% students from their high school graduating class.
“We’re going back to other admissions criteria that we’re evaluating, but not lowering the standards, not going backwards. We’re just waiving that particular requirement for now,” Matson said.
The temporary SAT and ACT standards are as follows:
|Class Rank/GPA||SAT Composite Score (new/old)||ACT Composite Score|
|Top 25%||No score required||No score required|
|GPA =>3.25||No score required||No score required|
|GPA =>2.75||No score required*||No score required*|
|No minimum||1020/1100 or higher||22 or higher|
Source: Media Release from Texas A&M University-San Antonio Office of Marketing & Communications
*Must complete a recommended or advanced/distinguished high school program, score greater than 4,000 on the English End-of-Course STAAR assessment and earn a grade B or higher in Algebra II.
Students respond to new standards
Students admitted under the new standards for the 2020-2021 school year also had some opinions on the university’s decision to not require test scores for incoming first-year students, including computer science freshman Israel Herrera.
Herrera said he did not believe the decision to drop the requirement for SAT and ACT scores was necessary for new students, despite some not being able to test.
“It was a good requirement for students to be bringing in,” Herrera said. “I feel like it set somewhat of a bar for upcoming students.”
Students applying for the 2021-2022 school year will still be required to complete their application on ApplyTexas.org, submit transcripts and may have to pay the $15 application fee, according to the announcement from the Office of Integrated Marketing and Communications.
The temporary change does not apply to transfer students. However, students with at least 30 credit hours are not required to submit their test scores for their application process. Students who have a GPA lower than a 2.75 will have their application reviewed holistically if they do not have test scores, McLelland said.
This means that the students’ whole application, such as looking at transcripts “to determine academic excellence and determination,” McLelland said in the media release from MarCom.
“Making this temporary adjustment for our future students is the right thing to do,” McLelland said in the announcement made by MarCom. “Considering the fact that COVID-19 has presented many challenges, we wanted to help students reach their dreams, and challenging this was just one of the ways we could do so.”