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University Honors Program seeks students motivated to achieve

February 17, 2020

Already using a holistic application review process, the University Honors Program at NIU has its own timeline when it comes to the use of standardized test scores as part of the admission process.

Through the fall of 2020, entering freshmen interested in becoming part of the program can choose whether they want their test scores considered or not. Starting in the spring of 2021, the program won’t consider standardized test scores at all.

The timeline allows for a smooth transition between old and new admissions guidelines.

The program actually began its holistic application review process before NIU’s recently approved “test-blind” policy.

That policy removes the use of standardized test scores for general admission and merit scholarship decisions for all students applying to NIU for the fall of 2021.

It reflects well-documented findings nationwide and at NIU that standardized test scores often are more reflective of a student’s socioeconomic background than academic abilities.

The University Honors Program wants students who are driven, curious and committed to improving themselves. Those qualities are reflected in areas like academic achievement, student involvement and leadership, said Andrea Radasanu, acting director of University Honors.

“We took very seriously the fact that ACT and SAT scores have been discredited in terms of the kind of predictive value they have for success,” she said. “Test scores are not fruitful for predicting academic success, but, rather, speak to privilege. They weren’t predictive or useful, and yet they were disproportionately keeping out underserved populations who could benefit from the program and who could, in turn, enrich the program.”

The holistic application review process used by the University Honors Program identifies active, engaged students who want to make positive contributions to the NIU community and beyond, she said.

As part of the program’s application process, students are asked to submit essays of up to 500 words.

Continuing students applying through fall 2020 will be admitted if they have maintained an NIU GPA of 3.30 or higher (or 3.20 or higher if they started at NIU prior to fall 2018). Those who do not meet that criteria, but believe they can maintain it in the future, are also encouraged to apply and have their applications considered as a whole. Applicants must be able to give evidence of their involvement, leadership and commitment to joining the University Honors Program.

The holistic application review process will remain when the University Honors Program goes completely test-blind starting in the spring of 2021. At that point, standardized test scores will no longer be considered.