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University of St. Thomas Offers Test-Optional Admissions

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By University of St. Thomas-Houston
9/3/2019 (2 weeks ago)
Catholic Online (

Test-optional admissions open University of St. Thomas' doors to a wider pool of applicants

As University of St. Thomas celebrates the largest incoming class in University history, the institution is poised to offer test-optional admissions giving access to a wider pool of applicants."We are excited to provide even more students an opportunity to attend a top-tier, private university," Arthur Ortiz, vice president of enrollment management, said.   

Students studying at the Center for Science & Health Professions

Students studying at the Center for Science & Health Professions


Houston (August, 27, 2019) - "Test-optional admissions is for those students who do not test well on standardized admissions exams but have very strong GPA's," Ortiz said. "UST realizes that standardized test scores alone do not capture someone's ability to do well in college."

Seventy-five percent of admissions leaders surveyed by Inside Higher Ed said the "persistent gaps" in SAT and ACT scores by race and ethnicity concerned them.

Prospective students will now have the option to apply traditionally using SAT and ACT scores, or test optional if they meet these requirements:

  • Write an essay indicating why test scores are not reflective of their academic ability
  • Test-optional candidates interview in person or over the phone with an admissions counselor
  • Submit a 3.4 GPA in high school on a 4.0 scale 

"More good news is that test-optional students are eligible for academic and need-based scholarships and have the same financial aid opportunities as those applicants that submit test scores," Ortiz said.

Does Your Zip Code Matter?

Failing to score high on standardized college entrance test may include a number of factors including test anxiety, culturally biased questions and access to teaching resources and/or preparation, which may correlate to your zip code.

"One of the greatest predictors of how well someone performs on their SAT or ACT is the zip code they reside in," Ortiz said.  "Many schools don't have the same resources and preparation for these standardized exams. There are always exceptions but your zip code is the highest determining factor, and UST wants to eliminate that barrier to entry."

UST Conducts Test-Optional Pilot Program

The University conducted a pilot program with test-optional students for the past four years. Approximately 75 percent of test-optional candidates in the pilot program were test optional. Not all candidates for test-optional were first-generation students but a significant majority were first-generation.

"Each year, UST would enroll 10-15 qualified students as test-optional and track their progress to graduation," Ortiz said. "The results show that test-optional students perform as well and sometimes better than traditionally admitted students with high SAT scores do."

For many institutions, the average retention rate for first-generation students who return for their second year of college is between 45-55 percent.  At UST, these students have returned at a higher rate between 87-92 percent. "This is remarkable!" Ortiz said.

"This is why UST wants to provide an opportunity for more students, because we have a system that works!" he said. "The University community from professors to staff to student mentors work hard to help this vulnerable population stay in college and graduate."


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