The pandemic has forced universities around the country to re-evaluate their admissions process. Several ACT and SAT tests have been canceled this year, and local schools are changing test requirements as a result.
TU's Dean of Admission Patricia DeBolt told News On 6 her team at the University of Tulsa understands the struggle because they're living it too.
"I can't help but feel for these kiddos who are graduating this year,” said DeBolt. “We understand that these kids this year, really the fall 2020 class and the fall 2021 class, they didn't finish high school like they were planning, and they've been faced with a lot of really interesting challenges.”
Like many universities nationwide, she said TU's making the standardized tests for entry optional this school year.
"There’re just no opportunities right now,” said DeBolt. “Without a vaccine or a miracle in the near future, I just don't know how these kids are going to get in to take these tests."
DeBolt said they already had in place a holistic admission process and read every word of every application. In other words, they didn’t have automatic entry for GPA and test scores. She said they'll only consider an applicant's test score if those scores will benefit the applicant. Otherwise, she said it's disregarded.
“These are very interesting times and a very interesting environment where it's not really set up for students to be successful on a standardized test,” DeBolt said.
She said TU asks applicants if they’ve taken a standardized test, but also asks if they want that score to be considered. If the individual says no, DeBolt said they then hide the score from the reading process.
“But no matter what the student says we are doing what is best on behalf of the student,” said DeBolt. “So even if they say, ‘No, don't consider my score’ and they have an ACT score of 34, which is outstanding, like we're gonna look at that and use it for admission and scholarship purposes."
She recommends, on the application, writing an essay and filling out the short answer questions.
“Those are really fun for us as an admission office to read,” said DeBolt. “It's a really good kind of way to show your personality, show your interests and that sort of thing in just a couple words.
DeBolt also said students have the option to attach a resume and recommendation letter.
"It certainly helps students stand out if we have a little bit more information to show your personality," DeBolt said. “We're hosting several resume workshops for our applicant students through our career services office to help them put it together.”
She told News On 6 that she and her admissions team are ultimately looking to see if a student can be successful both in the classroom and within this campus community.
"Just relax and be yourself,” said DeBolt. “We all want you to be successful."
Ryan Biesemeyer is a professional tutor and said there's a difference between requiring a score and still using your score for application purposes. He said many universities are now accepting your super score for scholarship purposes to build their application pool.
“You have to make sure that they don't want the score. So just because they say they don't require the score doesn't mean they're not going to use it for application purposes, which then would mean you having a score and somebody not having a score may move you ahead of them for application,” Biesemeyer said.
Biesemeyer has been tutoring students for about five years now and said having to tutor online was a whole new learning curve. He said he does prefer in person over online tutoring.
“Many students have actually shared that sentiment now that we're actually asking them which way they want to do it,” said Biesemeyer. “Same with the parents. They think their kids learn better face to face.”
Biesemeyer said he’s made it work both ways, but students have to pay a little more attention and put in the time, doing homework on their own. They were also tasked with learning how to use a digital whiteboard and tools like the online calculator.
"The standardized test is just to show if you're going to be successful your freshman year,” said Biesemeyer. “It has nothing to do with graduation rank. It has nothing to do with majors. It's just to show the college that you have done the body of work and that you can be successful."
He said he’s seen major improvement in students who use his services, and he tailors the tutoring to their needs. Biesemeyer said many people don’t know about the Test Information Report, otherwise known as TIR, which allows a student to get a copy of their questions and answers to select tests. He said out of the seven test dates a year, they allow students to order their tests and their answers three times, so that they can go back and see what they’ve missed, as well as what areas they need to improve in. He told News On 6 that this is available in December, April, and June, and he recommends juniors take their test in December.
Biesemeyer said you no longer need to write the essay which is a 40-minute test at the end of the three-hour test.
“The number one point I want to get across is do not write the essay,” said Biesemeyer. “It's going to cost you more money to sign up for the essay. You write it on the computer now, but it used to be handwritten. You also don't get to see the prompt and there is no reason to write the essay."
He told News On 6 that many colleges now accept your super score for scholarships, as well as admissions purposes. He described the super score as building your best score from the four sections. You take your best math score, your best science, best reading, and best writing scores from different dates. Biesemeyer said you can take it up to 12 times.
"They are hurting for applications,” said Biesemeyer. “They're hurting for people to come to school, so they are looking for ways to try to build their application pool."
He said the ACT's online and individual section tests were supposed to come out this summer but were delayed at least a year.
"It's easier to take on paper,” said Biesemeyer. “It's side by side. You can scribble your notes. When you flip the page and skip a problem you can come back, and your notes are still there."
For tutoring information, visit this website here.