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NMU pilots new ‘test-blind’ policy for incoming freshmen

Northern Michigan University is starting a policy in which freshman applicants are not required to submit SAT or ACT test scores to be admitted. Shown here is the Northern Center. (Photo courtesy of NMU)

MARQUETTE — Northern Michigan University is piloting a “test-blind” admissions policy, in which freshmen applicants are not required to submit SAT or ACT test scores to be admitted.

The change was prompted in part by barriers to administering standardized tests during the coronavirus pandemic. It is also supported by statistical evidence from national sources and NMU analyses that high school grade-point average, not SAT/ACT scores, is the most reliable gauge of how students will perform in college.

NMU joins a number of institutions across the United States in announcing similar policies. It will make general admission decisions based only on high school GPA through at least Fall 2021.

The test-blind policy could become permanent after that point, pending approval by the NMU Academic Senate.

“Most rising seniors would have taken the SAT or ACT this spring as juniors, where the timing would lead naturally into the college admission cycle for fall 2021,” said NMU Admissions Director Gerri Daniels. “Changes to testing dates were necessary due to the pandemic, and now many students will not test until this fall.

“Adopting a test-blind admission policy for 2021 will mean students’ application and admission process can proceed on a timetable that also facilitates the financial aid application and awarding process. It will put them in the best possible position to consider their college options for fall 2021.”

Prospective students with a cumulative GPA of 2.25 or higher will be admitted to NMU. For students whose GPA is below 2.25, NMU will perform a more thorough review of their courses and grades, the academic program selected and other information to determine whether to admit them conditionally, with a requirement that they participate in academic success programming.

There may be limited exceptions in which students need to provide SAT/ACT scores for specific programs and scholarships.

NMU Admissions and NMU Institutional Research, Planning and Assessment collaborated with the university’s new analytics partner, HelioCampus, to determine how much predictive value ACT/SAT scores have related to either first term/year GPA or third-semester retention.

They found “ACT/SAT scores have a small predictive effect, but high school GPA is by far the most important predictor of success,” said Jason Nichols, IRPA director.

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