University of Cumberlands campus

University of the Cumberlands is introducing a test-optional application process to aid students who may have faced cancellations of state ACT and SAT testing during the ongoing novel coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. Students currently applying to Cumberlands, both domestic and international, can choose whether to submit test scores as part of their application or select the test-optional route. 

“There is a growing body of evidence that standardized tests like the SAT and ACT do not fully reflect the academic talents of every student,” said Dr. Larry L. Cockrum, University of the Cumberlands President. “Now, because of social-distancing guidelines implemented throughout much of the U.S., many prospective students are not getting the chance to take those tests to improve their scoring, or even take the tests for the first time, and are wondering what that means for their college application.”

Dr. Cockrum said the University had been weighing this decision for some time, and acted to implement the change in the face of difficulties students are currently facing. 

Chase Davis, Associate Vice President for Enrollment, said the current application process does not change for students that want to submit test scores as part of their application. The process remains simple and is available in an online format

The process is also simple for students wanting to follow the test-optional route. Students can submit a standard application, denote test-optional, and then submit supporting materials that detail their academic career. 

“During the admissions process, we will consider high school GPA, course load, and similar academic indicators that highlight the achievement of each student,” said Davis. “We believe in taking every step we can to create an open application process for all students.” 

Davis noted the nationwide ACT exam scheduled for April 4 has been postponed, delaying many students’ hopes at improving test scores and thus finalizing their college applications. The test-optional route now offers those students a different opportunity to prove themselves academically. Davis said other criteria for the test-optional application could be developed in advance of next year’s application cycle, but the University wanted a way students could move forward now with their applications. 

The test-optional route offers access to the current application cycle for all students, says Dr. Jerry Jackson, Vice President of Enrollment and Communications.

“We operate on a mission based in putting our students first,” Dr. Jackson said. “In just a short amount of time, we have cut tuition by more than half, offered free textbooks for on-campus students, and now are giving students an application option that best highlights their academic ability.”

Students who choose the test-optional route are still eligible for the same institutional grants and need-based aid offered by Cumberlands as well as state and national education entities. Even student-athletes can apply in this manner, though they must submit a test score to the NAIA for eligibility. International students can apply through the test-optional method but must do so in addition to taking English proficiency test.

In light of the suspension of on-campus activity during the pandemic, all Cumberlands admissions counselors are available virtually to assist with the test-optional application process, offer campus tour options, and answer general questions about campus life at Cumberlands. Cumberlands has created a specialized webpage focused on virtual information sharing at www.ucumberlands.edu/joinus

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