by Rebecca Poutasse–
This fall, Virginia Tech applicants filled out an entirely new application through the Coalition for Access, Affordability, and Success. As the name suggests, the Coalition’s goal is increasing college access for underrepresented and underserved students. Dannette Gomez-Beane, Director of Recruitment and Operations, explains how Virginia Tech Admissions can help remove barriers in the application process.
“There’s still systematic discrimination that occurs — education inequity, racial inequity, income disparity — that Virginia Tech Admissions does not have the power to change,” Gomez-Beane said. “But we can acknowledge those inequities, and understand that students face these systematic barriers.”
The Coalition application is designed to promote a more holistic review of applicants. Gomez-Beane said the application paints both a better and bigger picture of the students’ experiences and identities.
One way the application does this is through essays. According to the application directions, there are four, 120-word essays intended to “help students tell their story and talk about the strengths they bring.” Gomez-Beane explains that the essay questions are rooted in research, and the scoring is done by anonymous, outside readers to remove potential bias from the evaluation process. The applicant’s total essay score is called their “Ut Prosim Profile.”
“The scoring rubric has been proved to correlate with degree completion, so we are able to say ‘if the student gets this score, the likelihood of them completely a degree at Virginia Tech is actually really high’,” Gomez-Beane said.
She explained that the essays are used to tell a story beyond a student’s GPA and SAT/ACT scores. “We use that Ut Prosim score to put students we’re questioning over the top,” Gomex-Beane said. “It’s never used to hurt them.”
According to ACT Research and Policy, in 2016 the average ACT score was 23.6 for higher income students and 19.5 for lower-income students. These disparities exist for a variety of reasons. Standardized tests are expensive. Wealthier students can often afford to take the test more than once, as well as resources such as tutoring and test preparation classes. On the contrary, low-income students often struggle to even afford the test.
When asked if the new application went far enough to remove barriers students face, Gomez-Beane shook her head. “These were major strides, but we can always do more,” she said.