Scholarships remain available for prospective UI students with or without ACT/SAT scores

After the state Board of Regents voted to retire the ACT/SAT admissions requirement, prospective students are still able to receive scholarships with or without submitting a score.


Lillie Hawker

Calvin Hall, where the Office of Admissions for the University of Iowa is located, sits in the sun on Monday, Feb. 14, 2022.

Kate Perez, News Reporter

ACT and SAT scores are no longer required to qualify for certain scholarships at the University of Iowa, but admissions staff say test scores can still help set students apart when competing for funds.

On Jan. 12, the state Board of Regents voted to make standardized testing requirement optional, including the ACT and SAT, for university admission of first-time undergraduates at all three of Iowa’s public universities.

Upon admission, students are automatically considered for various merit scholarships. UI Director of Admissions Kirk Kluver said students are evaluated for scholarships whether they submit scores or not.

“Some of our highest merit scholarship awards are generally for students that not only have a strong high school curriculum and strong grades, but also a strong test score,” Kluver said.

The average high school grade point average of an incoming first-year student in fall 2021 was 3.81, Kluver said, and about a third of the entering students had a 4.0 or better. Submitting test scores can set a student apart from others, he said.

“There will be opportunities for students that apply without a test score but have an excellent high school curriculum and good grades in high school, but the ceiling for scholarships increases if you’re a student that not only has a strong high school curriculum, excellent grades, and you’re in the 99th percentile of ACT or AP testing,” he said.

Scholarships offered to incoming first-year students upon admission are based on merit, as well as factors like family contribution, a student’s racial and ethnic background, and whether they are in-state students.

Related: Regents’ new ACT/SAT policy aim to give prospective students flexibility

The UI is joining a growing trend of colleges dropping requirements for ACT or SAT testing for admissions: Harvard University dropped the requirement in December 2021, and Indiana University, Columbia University, and the University of Oregon have all dropped their requirements.

Amelia Johnson, a first-year student, said she chose not to submit her test scores when she applied to the UI but received numerous scholarships.

“I didn’t send any scores into Iowa because my tests got canceled,” she said. “I received the National Scholars Award, the Advantage Iowa Award, and a scholarship for me being from Texas.”

Johnson said the scholarships she received from the UI made the cost of attending the university comparable to being at an in-state school. Being a nursing major, she said the UI had a better program for her than opportunities in Texas.

All her scholarships have different requirements, Johnson said, including different minimum GPAs and numbers of semester hours. She said she was glad she was recognized for her hard work through scholarships and felt students should continue to be rewarded.

“I feel like being awarded for my merit and the hard work I put in is more rewarding,” Johnson said. “I think the scholarships should be based more on merit more than anything else as far as academics go, because that’s the best reflection of a student’s work.”

Jocelyn Macias, UI first-year student studying criminology and chemistry, also received multiple scholarships upon admission into the university last year. Macias received the Iowa Need-Based Academic Award, the Advantage Iowa Award and grant, and the National Scholars Award among other federal grants.

“I didn’t get an official full ride, but with the amount of money they gave me I was able to cover all costs to attend Iowa, both academically and housing and dining,” Macias said. “The only thing I need to worry about is my academics in order to be able to maintain the scholarships.”

Macias chose not to submit her standardized testing scores to the university when she applied. She said she feels that when institutions require test scores, it can negatively undermine the students’ success in other areas.

If a student is not taught a topic before the ACT or SAT and they do poorly, the requirement can hurt them in the long run, Macias said.

“If students definitely have to include the test scores, then it’s going to impact how much money they get, and if they don’t get enough, they can’t go to the schools because they definitely need financial aid to be able to go to college,” Macias said. “It’s not going to be handed to us any other way.”

Macias said she is glad the UI is remaining test-optional so that students like her can continue to receive the scholarships that they need.

“Thankfully, without including my test scores, I was still able to get a good amount of money,” she said. “If I were to include my test scores, I just would have hoped it wouldn’t have impacted how much the university gave me.”