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University of St. Thomas approves new 'test optional' policy for incoming students

Students who apply to the University St. Thomas are no longer required to take ACT. The school joins a list of nearly 1,000 "test optional" universities.

SAINT PAUL, Minn. — Many students know the stress, time and huge amount of money that can go into taking the ACT or SAT tests.

For nearly a century, universities like St. Thomas have used these standardized tests to bring in new students, but this week the school decided to break away from that tradition.

"A standardized test is not always the best indicator of how well a student is going to do in school," Vice President of Enrollment Al Cotrone says.

Starting in Fall of 2021, the ACT will be optional at St. Thomas.

For students who take it, their score will still be considered, those who don't, it won't go against them.

Cotrone says tests are barriers for some students who deal with stress and anxiety, or come from low income families who can't afford transportation or the cost of taking a test.

"Even look at the high schools, some high schools have resources and the wherewithal to really drive the test and prep for the test and make sure their students do really well on the test, other schools don't have that resource," Cotrone says.

At first glance it may seem like this change will make enrollment decisions easier for school officials, but Cotrone says it will actually be even more difficult.

“We are going to have to dig deeper into their transcript and see their course selection and the deep rigor of the courses they’ve taken, and what they have done in terms of extracurricular activities,” Cotrone says.

He still strongly encourages students to consider taking a standardized test, because it will give students more options.

“I would say, if you feel your score is the best representation of you and what you think you can do and how well you’ll thrive at St. Thomas, then you should submit that test score. If it’s not the best representation of you and that’s highlighted by other things, than you should not submit that test score,” Cotrone says.

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Another important consideration is NCAA policies state all incoming Division-I student athletes must take at least one standardized test and they must report that score to the NCAA.

Cotrone says this policy might come into play at St. Thomas with the university possibly switching over to Division-I in the near future.

St. Thomas is just one of several schools that have switched to “test optional” in recent years.

It's a growing trend in the academic world.

According to PrepScholar.com, nearly 1,000 schools are now test-optional, including 18 in Minnesota.

These schools include:

  • Academy College
  • Art Institutes of International Minnesota
  • Augsburg University
  • Bemidji State University
  • Bethany Global University
  • Brown College
  • Capella University
  • College of St. Scholastica
  • Concordia University
  • Dunwoody College of Technology
  • Gustavus Adolphus College
  • Metropolitan State University
  • Minnesota Bible College
  • Minnesota State University
  • Oak Hills Christian College
  • Southwest Minnesota State University
  • University of Minnesota-Crookston
  • University of St. Thomas