“Your application is complete”: History of Admissions at UMD

As the application deadline for the Class of 2024 rapidly approaches, University Archives explored the history of admissions at the University of Maryland, College Park!

In 1877, prospective students of Maryland Agricultural College were expected to “pass good examinations in Reading, Writing, Arithmetic, Grammar, Geography, and History of the United States” and applications were submitted directly to the President of the college. The trend of in-house admissions testing continued into the 20th century, as the University continued to require passage of a University administered examination until 1925. 

By 1926, students were given three options for admission to our campus. Students were approved for admission based on completion of a certificate from an approved high school, transfer from another college or university, or passage of the exam administered by the College Entrance Examination Board. The exam was likely the SAT, first administered by the College Entrance Examination Board in 1926 and gaining in popularity for use college admissions in the 1940s. 

Nevertheless, the University continued to not require an examination for students seeking admissions throughout the 1930s and 1940s, even as applications increased dramatically with the implementation of the GI Bill following World War II. 

By 1961, however, the University changed its policy to include three requirements for admissions. Students needed to have graduated from an accredited secondary school, have received a letter of recommendation from the school’s principal, and taken the required high school credits necessary for admission into a particular academic program. Non-Maryland residents were also required to submit exam results from the College Entrance Examination Board. 

It was not until 1962 that our admissions policy first required a standardized test for admission, making students to submit results from the American College Testing Program, also known as the ACT. 

Even as the ACT and SAT became standards for admission to the University of Maryland, students, faculty, and administrators began to question the effectiveness and equity of standardized testing in admissions practices. Student newspapers The Diamondback and Black Explosion reveal growing frustration with UMD’s admissions policies beginning in the 1970s. One article in Black Explosion in January 1980 points to a study conducted by the Office of Minority Student Education (now the Office of Multi-Ethnic Student Education or OMSE) that revealed the “cultural biases of standardized tests” and their inability to “accurately predict academic success.” 

A more recent 2018 editorial in The Diamondback points to further issues with requiring SAT or ACT scores for admission, highlighting the financial inaccessibility of these expensive tests and the ways the testing requirement disqualifies financially disadvantaged students. 

Despite the continued advocacy of students for test optional admissions policies, the University of Maryland continues to require submission of ACT or SAT scores as a part of the application for admission. 

For more information on the history of undergraduate admissions at the University of Maryland and the debate over standardized testing, take a look at our Course Catalogs  and Student Newspaper Database or visit us in Hornbake Library!

Also, check out these admissions materials from 1970 to 2011!

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