COLUMBIA - Colleges are changing applications to better suit students after spending the last year of high school in a pandemic. 

After a year of online classes, limited ability to participate in extracurriculars and fewer chances to take ACT and AP tests, colleges are loosening requirements on test scores. 

The University of Missouri is now offering two options to applying students: an option with traditional admission requirements or a test optional choice. 

“If you’ve been unable to test or your current test score doesn’t meet our published admission standards, you can apply test-optional and be reviewed holistically,” the MU Admissions website says. “This means we will look at your high school transcript and supplemental documents that you submit (a personal statement and resume).”

Chuck May is the Executive Director of Admissions for MU. He said applying through the test optional process will not change the likelihood of being accepted or denied. 

“We knew that many, many students didn't have the opportunity to take a standardized test, especially in the large Metro markets,” May said. “It does not matter if the students apply test optional, or with a test score, they would be reviewed the same.”

However, the process in which the admissions office reviews the application will look different. This is because the test optional choice requires more information from the applicant. 

“We will require a personal statement where they would answer a couple of prompts,” May said. “We also require the students to submit a resume-- letting us know what their activities were in high school, what school job, and service that they've done in the community.”

May said only 33% of MU applicants have applied under test optional. 

MU is also joining more than a thousand colleges across the country in changing their approach to standardized tests. 

According to FairTest, the nonprofit National Center for Fair and Open Testing, “a new tally shows more than 1,000 accredited, four-year colleges and universities now will make decisions about all or many applicants without considering ACT or SAT test scores.”

Olivia Hake, a senior at Rock Bridge High School, said having the option to apply to schools through the test optional choice was a relief for her.

“I would say that test optional is a huge plus, especially for people who aren't good test takers, or get super stressed out about it,” Hake said. “So that was a huge weight off my shoulders when looking at colleges.” 

Hake said the COVID-19 pandemic forced the cancellation of two of her opportunities to take the ACT test. She applied, and committed, to the University of Arkansas through the test optional admissions process.

“I feel prepared,” Hake said. “COVID has kind of made me ready to move on from high school just because it's not been the best situation and just with everything going on. So I'm just ready for a change of scenery.”

Rock Bridge's in-person graduation ceremony is scheduled for May 21.

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