For aspiring college students, the admissions process can be perplexing and stressful. Filling out applications and waiting for a response can linger deep into a senior year of high school, often distracting from what should be a care-free time.
The same stress can be found in college admissions officials. How do you separate one prospective student with a 2.8 high school grade-point average from another? How do you reconcile the fact that those decisions can have a life-changing impact?
Washington’s Guaranteed Admissions Program, which launched as a pilot project for the 2021-22 school year, is designed to ease some of that stress. In conjunction with school districts, five state universities — Central Washington, Eastern Washington, Western Washington, The Evergreen State College and Washington State University in Pullman — provide early assurance for college hopefuls.
If a high school student meets the criteria of an individual college, they are informed of guaranteed admission should they desire to apply. For each university, completion of College Academic Distribution Requirements is required; for Evergreen State, a student also must have a 2.5 GPA, while for Washington State they must have a 3.6 GPA and be in the top 10 percent of their high school class.
More than 60 school districts in the state take part in the program. In Clark County, that includes Battle Ground, Camas, Evergreen, Hockinson, La Center, Ridgefield, Vancouver and Washougal.
As an opinion piece in The (Olympia) Olympian states: “When acceptance to multiple colleges comes automatically, students can spend less time worrying and more time weighing their options.” And Sarah Rich of the North Thurston School District says: “Applying to college can be complicated, and we want to simplify the process. We want to make sure students know when they’ve met the criteria to get in, especially if they haven’t historically seen themselves as college-going.”
Indeed, expanding the pool of prospective students has widespread benefits. Research shows that first-generation college students typically have less confidence in their ability to succeed, and these concerns can be evident in the application process.
The Guaranteed Admissions Program is a reflection of how colleges are rethinking admissions. Hundreds of schools have eliminated standardized test scores — SAT or ACT — as admissions criteria; according to The Hill, 4 percent of colleges require a standardized test, down from 55 percent in 2019.
In part, this is because the COVID-19 pandemic played havoc with test-taking schedules. But another factor is that university officials are increasingly determining that standardized tests have a built-in bias and that they do not accurately predict college success. As one education expert told The Hill: “Any time spent preparing for the SAT or ACT is time spent not reading a novel, time not spent playing the guitar. I think it’s a waste of kids’ energy and time.”
That, however, does not solve all the difficulties of the admissions process. An A grade in honors geometry at one high school might not mean the same as a similar grade at another school, and admissions officials must sort through reams of data while making judgment calls.
But reducing the worry and making college appear more attainable benefits students. Therefore, it benefits future employers. In trying to ensure that our state’s best and brightest pursue a college education, the Washington Guaranteed Admissions Program is a step in the right direction.