Auburn accepting by GPA not ACT

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By Hannah Lester
hlester@opelikaobserver.com

The pandemic has affected a lot of different processes, college admission being one of them.

Most students did not take the ACT this year, to either avoid COVID-19 or because the tests were not offered or canceled, said Joffrey Gaymon, vice president of enrollment services during a Board of Trustees work session in November.

“Forty-two percent of students and 53% of low-income students indicated that they had not taken any standardized tests,” Gaymon said, referencing a recently released survey. “And then 36% of that population referenced that if they did take the test that they did not plan to send their scores to the institution with their application.”

Students can still send their test scores in, Gaymon said, but many have not. This means that the criteria for admissions had to change.

The second round of admissions was just completed, she said, and the university is on track to keep its goal of 60% in-state students. So far, the university has received over 14,000 applications.

The school has also increased the amount of applications it has received from in-state students. Students have applied from 63 Alabama counties, Gaymon said.

“We guaranteed admission for the top two students at any school with 50 or more students enrolled,” she said. “And so we actually have 268 students we’ve offered admission that are ranked within the top five, which is great.”

If the school is not looking at the ACT, however, that means it has to look at GPA. Specifically, the school is looking at weighted GPA.

Some of the trustees had questions about how this will work given that some high schools award weighted points differently.

“We only are pulling specific courses [for the GPA],” Gaymon said. “So we have a certain number of core classes that are factored into the GPA, so this year, because not everybody has access to the SAT or ACT scores, we have more of a flexible model. During the evaluation, we’re looking at the core GPA, so it’s a combination of the academic courses.”

This will even the playing field a bit, in terms of different high schools, Gaymon said.

One trustee, Charles McCrary, questioned whether students had been made aware that Auburn was not looking at their cumulative GPA. He said he has had concerned parents reach out with questions.

“So I understand that you actually, you may have a student that has a 4.0 let’s say, and fills out an application to Auburn,” McCrary said. “You look at it and you say ‘hmm, nope it’s not a 4.0, because we’ve looked at the core courses and the student actually had a 3.5.’”

Gaymon confirmed this and said that the school is looking at courses such as math, science, English, social studies and foreign languages.

Other courses, such as home economics, while reflected in the cumulative GPA, would not be considered in the core GPA. Gaymon also said that students had been made aware of the process and need to enter the information themselves on the application.

“There’s not usually that much of a huge difference, it’s usually probably a half a point variation between the core and the cumulative GPA,” she said. “They’re usually very close together.”

Trustee Wayne T. Smith said that he and other trustees were concerned that Auburn was lowering its standards by accepting based on GPA and not by a standardized test score.

“Is there any difference in terms of the standards for admission using this flexible way of doing it versus still ACT or SAT way,” he asked. “Is it too early to tell whether there’s any difference in terms of standards for admission?”

Gaymon said she expects there will be more solid data available soon, but she believes standards are not lowered by accepting through GPA. This method does require more work on the university’s part in looking through a student’s record, however.

“Everyone understands that this is a different year, of course, and things, and there’s not access to all these standardized tests but what the trustees want is to make sure that we do not lower our standards for admission and we want that assurance,” Smith said. “That’s what we’re after here, regardless of how it’s done. We’re not the experts, you’re the expert. You can do it however you want to do it, but so we get some assurance that we’re not lowering our standards for admission.”

The students who have already been admitted to Auburn this year are comparable to previous years’ admitted students, Gaymon said.

Eventually, this pandemic will end, and Auburn will go back to accepting based on ACT scores, Gaymon said, but this new process was necessary to accommodate an ever-changing world due to COVID-19.

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