This academic year, East Carolina University admissions has made multiple changes to its requirements for admission, which include a lower grade point average (GPA) for transfer students as well as former changes made to SAT and ACT test score requirements.
Erica Hoyt, associate director for transfer recruitment, said her office has lowered the GPA requirement for transfer students. Hoyt said the decision was not influenced by COVID-19.
“We changed our GPA requirement to 2.0. Originally, for as long as I can remember, it has always been a 2.5. This is something that was talked about before we went into this pandemic timeframe but it's been talked about before,” Hoyt said. “Most of our sister UNC system schools are at a 2.0 already. This is essentially being more in line with our partners; our competitors.”
These changes only apply to university admission, according to Hoyt. She said programs like nursing, engineering and other health related schools require higher GPAs and additional applications.
Hoyt said waiving test scores will last until admissions for the fall 2021 semester are over, but the reduction of the GPA requirement is permanent. The decision to make it permanent was not made in the same circumstances as the decision to waive test scores, according to Hoyt.
Margaret Turner, admissions director for the Honors College at ECU, said she is excited for the opportunity to bring diversity into the honors college program. With the dropping of test scores and newly implemented transfer policy, Turner said she expects a more diverse set of students to come in.
“To be eligible to apply to the honors college, students just have to meet a GPA requirement, either a 3.5 unweighted GPA or a 4.0 weighted GPA, and we are not considering test scores at all,” Turner said.
The GPA requirements remain unchanged because there is already too much confusion in the process as is, according to Turner. She said the temporary waiver of test scores this year was the right thing to do for the best interest of the students.
Turner said the Honors College takes in 200 freshmen every year. That number will remain the same but she said she expects to see a larger applicant pool.
“Because we have scholarships tied to all of the honors college spots, we kept the test score requirement initially simply because of the volume of applications we could receive.” Turner said. “As it became more evident that testing just wasn't happening or there were so many fiascos around the testing sites, it really became evident that (waiving test scores) was the right thing to do for the best interests of students.”
Turner said she expects to see an increase in the number of applications. She said she hopes to see an increase in the diversity of applicants which is something that honors college has struggled with in years past.
Stephanie Whaley, the director of undergraduate admissions, said she and the rest of the admissions office made the decision to waive test scores for incoming freshmen. It was a decision made by the University of North Carolina System who gave schools the option to waive scores in the admissions process.
“They granted us a one year waiver for requiring test scores. In the past we always required an SAT or an ACT for freshman admissions,” Whaley said. “This year the way we are implementing this waiver process is that we are taking a test blind approach. That means that students can certainly submit their test score but we are not going to base an admission decision on a test score. The test score will not positively or negatively impact their admission decision.”
Students can submit their test scores if they want but it will not necessarily help or hurt them, according to Whaley. Going test blind put no students at unfair advantages or disadvantages in terms of test scores.
ECU admissions waived test scores because many students were not able to take their exams due to the difficulty to get registered in the reduced capacity of testing sites, Whaley said.
“There are also challenges for that group (High school class of 2021) having to take an ACT or SAT this fall semester because while you go to websites and see lots of test dates out there,” Whaley said. “Because of social distancing requirements, testing centers are at 25% capacity or 50% capacity so those available spaces just fill up so quickly that some students are going to miss out on that opportunity, so that’s why we are just test blind this year.”
Most of the students who graduated high school in 2020 were able to take their exams before COVID-19 forced schools to close down, according to Whaley. ECU admissions made some adjustments in their requirements back in April that allowed for flexibility for students who didn't take their exam in time.
The UNC system had not given ECU the ability to completely waive test requirements for incoming freshmen for fall 2020, Whaley said. All of ECU’s admissions policies are governed by the UNC system, according to Whaley.
“Our requirements for new freshmen this year will be an application, an essay and of course, their official high school transcript with GPA and all the courses they have taken through their junior year in high school,” Whaley said.