A new grading rubric for UC admissions 2021

“I definitely do look at income and try and make my score make sense,” explains UC Santa Cruz senior admissions evaluator, Ria Jagasia, about how household income plays a role in her review.  In the final installment of our UC insider interview, we discuss the new rubric without test scores, deferrals taking away seats from high school seniors, the order of importance among GPA, SAT, and AP scores, plus the effects of financial need. Catch up from Pt. 1 and Pt. 2 of the interview.

With tests score submissions being optional this upcoming admissions cycle, how will you evaluate apps differently?

Honestly, I don’t know. They haven’t told us what’s going to happen. I assume we’re going to have a new rubric because our old rubric included SAT and ACT.

How do you think this new rubric will look?

In my head, the way it’s going to work is that it’s just going to be one less column in our rubric, and that percentage that we weigh on test scores is going to be divvied up for the other categories. All the UCs are doing something different, so it’s per campus how test-optional is interpreted. For UCSC, we’re not including that in selection. That means it’s not in the rubric. I’m not allowed to include it.  I can see it if you submit it, maybe, but it’s not going into your evaluation score.

If test scores aren’t going into the evaluation, how can it help or hurt an applicant who submits it?

It may be more of a context thing. If you have a great SAT score, it might align with whatever score I’m giving you. It could just add to the overall context of your application. I think it’s going to be pretty interesting to see how that changes our scoring. But the test was only one part, so it’s not like the test was 50% of the weight of the rubric to begin with. It was only one section of the rubric. I don’t think that taking one section off is going to radically change everything. I think it’s the interpretation of test-optional. It gets people really nervous, because it’s not a make or break. It doesn’t really make a difference, because I can’t grade for it anyway.

Do you see any correlation between the SAT score and GPA?

There are obviously discrepancies between academic performance and what the SAT measures, but a lot of the times it is similar. Students who are getting all As and Bs are getting 600, 700, 800 on their SAT. It’s not like they’re completely flunking their test and then getting 4.0s in high school; we don’t see that a lot. It’s more the flip side, where it’s low-income or disadvantaged students who are doing not so great in high school but are actually performing really well compared to their pool with their test score. That is something that I can give them credit for. Compared to their high school, they scored really well on the SAT or ACT. That’s something that works in their favor. But for the average upper/middle-class student, their SAT just aligns with what I’ve seen with their grades, so it doesn’t really change their score so much.

You mentioned that evaluators don’t consider the actual numeric score like 1600 for the SAT and 36 for the ACT. Instead, you consider the percentile. Are you using the data from the previous year of test takers to calculate the percentile?

It must be with the previous pool and then their school reported data too. Their school will tell us, “These are the average scores that came in.” I’m pretty sure it’s for that cycle that they’re applying, or maybe it’s historical data, but I think there wouldn’t be so much discrepancy year to year for schools especially. The school is where it’s more important. Depending on certain circumstances, we use one percentage over the other. That’s why we train for a week, because there are just so many things that happen with this rubric, and there are different ways that we grade each person depending on their circumstances. But for the most part, I want to see generally: Are you scoring well compared to your pool?

Why does it matter to score well compared to your own pool?

Because even if your test score is great, Bay Area high schools are something else. Everybody’s scoring perfect scores in these high schools, so it doesn’t really add value. If you’re getting a perfect score but all of your classmates who are applying to UCs are also getting perfect scores, then there’s no real discrepancy in that pool. So it’s great, but I don’t really have a reason to bump you up for having a good score.

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