ACT not only factor in admissions

By Karsten Burgstahler

SIUC’s admissions department takes a different approach to accepting students.

While many universities base admissions heavily on ACT scores and grade point averages, SIUC prefers a holistic approach to admissions, which means the school is taking a closer look at each student individually to see how they might fit in at the university, said Katharine Suski, director of undergraduate admissions.

Suski said SIUC wants to look at the overall picture of the students’ abilities rather than focus in on ACT scores and grade point averages.


“I can’t tell you what our specific admissions requirements are, what we’re looking for specifically, because it really is a holistic review of each student,” Suski said.

SIUC considers GPA and ACT scores, but they are just one factor in a decision process that also looks at student responses to essay questions on the application, Suski said.

Certain high school course patterns are required for admission, according to the university’s undergraduate admissions’ website. Besides having a high school degree, incoming students are required to have taken courses in high school subjects such as literature and algebra. Any issues with deficiencies in these courses can be corrected by certain ACT subscores. In English, the score needed to meet that requirement is a 22.

ACT averages have remained consistent at SIU over the past five years. According to the university’s Institutional Research 2011-2012 guide, the averages for 2007-2011 not including the students in the Center for Academic Success are 23, 22.9, 22.9, 22.7 and 23, respectively.

The Center for Academic Success is a program for students who did not meet the admissions standards. If the students in the center are added in, the averages become 21.6, 21.6, 21.6, 21.2, and 21.4. The highest score a student can earn is a 36.

To compare, the national average for 2007-2011 is 21.2, 21.1, 21.1, 21, and 21.1, respectively, according to a report from ACT.

While the university’s approach to admissions does not focus only on ACT and GPA requirements, other area colleges have specific ACT scores and GPA requirements for admission.


Southern Illinois University Edwardsville also made a change to its requirements this semester.

SIUE used to take different factors such as GPA, ACT scores, and class rank, and allow a stronger result in one area to compensate for another.

SIUE now requires specific GPAs and ACT scores for immediate admission, said Scott Belobrajdic, assistant vice chancellor for enrollment management at SIUE. A student must have an ACT composite of 18 or better and at least a 2.5 high school GPA to qualify, and any student’s applications that falls outside the requirements will be considered by an admissions committee, Belobrajdic said.

Southeastern Missouri State University’s application requirements factor in ACT scores and GPA, which is similar to how SIUE used to admit students. An ACT composite of 21 requires a GPA of at least 2.0 for admission; an ACT score of 18 requires a 2.75 GPA at least, said Debbie Below, associate vice president for enrollment management at SEMO.

“We know that high school grade point average is the best predictor of student preparedness for college,” said Below. “This year, we’re requiring an 18 (ACT) and 2.75 (GPA). That took about 20 to 25 students, depending on the year, that are no longer admissible due to that GPA change.”

SEMO once required an ACT score of 18 and 2.0 GPA for admittance. In 2008, the school began requiring an 18 ACT score and a 2.5 GPA, Below said.

SEMO does offer a chance for regional students who may not have met the requirements, she said. These students can be accepted, but they must attend first semester meetings on a regular basis at the school’s academic support center, she said.

“There aren’t a lot of education options for students in this area,” she said. “We want to be as accessible as possible.”

While SEMO has an ACT requirement, some schools are considering dropping the ACT altogether. DePaul University, for example, now has an ACT optional admissions program.

The ACT stands by its test’s usefulness in aspects of college admission, said Ed Colby, of ACT Education Solutions.

“The ACT respects every college’s right to review their admission requirements and revise them to reflect what is best for admission of students,” Colby said.  “We believe strongly in the value of ACT scores as a predictor of college readiness and as a tool to help these students into appropriate first-year courses.”