The University of Maryland has joined a growing list of universities in making SAT and ACT scores optional for the 2021 freshman and transfer application process, according to a Friday press release.

An updated FAQ sheet from the Office of Undergraduate Admissions notes that “limitations of testing in some areas” due to the coronavirus pandemic may make it difficult for students to access exams, adding that the university will not penalize applicants for excluding this information.

 “We have always sought to attract a wide applicant pool of highly talented and motivated students, and we believe this decision will create a clearer pathway for students who want to pursue a degree at Maryland,” said Shannon Gundy, the university’s director of undergraduate admissions, in a statement to the Office of Strategic Communications.

Once prospective students complete their applications, they will be asked if they want to submit their test scores for evaluation, according to the FAQ sheet.

“In reviewing our policies and choosing test optional for 2021, we aim to support and reassure students at this difficult time,” Gundy said.

Instead of evaluating test scores, the Admission Committee will continue its holistic approach to reviewing applications, focusing on factors such as high school grades, honors classes and extracurricular activities, according to the FAQ sheet.

Students who still wish to submit SAT and ACT scores for consideration can do so. Those who choose not to will still be considered for living and learning programs and merit scholarships, according to the FAQ sheet. 

However, prospective students who have already submitted their applications for spring and fall 2021 cannot change their test-optional status, according to the FAQ sheet.

The undergraduate admissions office noted that the Admission Committee will “consider all factors and available context” in reviewing applications, including the possibility that students who wished to retake the SAT or ACT in recent months may have been unable to because of lockdown restrictions. 

Standardized tests for English language proficiency will still be mandated for non-native English speakers. 

In recent weeks, other universities within the University System of Maryland, including the University of Maryland, Baltimore County and Towson University, have also announced that applications would be test-optional for prospective students in 2021. 

More than half of all four-year colleges and universities in the U.S. have created a test-optional policy for fall 2021 admissions, according to The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, an organization committed to ensuring a fairer evaluation process for students, teachers and schools.