EDUCATION + SCHOOLS

Utah student earns perfect ACT score but rejected by MIT and BYU

Apr 25, 2024, 6:00 PM | Updated: May 15, 2024, 12:53 pm

People walk through the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, March 13, 2024....

People walk through the University of Utah campus in Salt Lake City on Wednesday, March 13, 2024. (Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

(Kristin Murphy, Deseret News)

SALT LAKE CITY — A Davis High senior earns a perfect ACT score but wasn’t accepted by the school of his choice.

About 1.4 million students nationwide take the ACT but just 0.25% (1/400) of all test takers earned a perfect 36 score, according to PrepScholar.

FairTest reports almost 2,000 colleges in the U.S. no longer require test scores for admission applications. That list includes other Utah universities like BYU, Utah State University and University of Utah.

Schools say no to applications but not why

But why was Trenton Caldwell rejected by both MIT and BYU? But because both schools didn’t say, he may never know.

“It’s pretty frustrating because I really feel like if I knew what it was, I would be able to fix it lickety-split, but it’s just impossible really because I have no idea,” said Trenton.

He said he knew the odds of being accepted to MIT were a long shot.

“I think it’s like 6% or something crazy like that. But BYU was a shocker for me,” he said. “I had no idea. I still have no idea actually — like what went wrong on my application, if anything went wrong, or if the stars didn’t align.”

Later, Steve Robinson, senior associate vice president for Enrollment Management at the University of Utah,  joins KSL NewsRadio to discuss why the university has made testing requirements for admission optional.

Perfect ACT score is not enough

 “I was almost ready to be disappointed if he didn’t have a full ride scholarship. So the fact that he didn’t even get in was just completely shocking,” said Trenton’s mother Jami about her son’s admission rejections to MIT and BYU. 

She added that she stressed academics with her older children and made Trenton quit his job so he could focus on schoolwork, which included seven Advanced Placement (AP) classes.

But with her youngest child, she said she’s trying a different academic tack.

“With my youngest, I just decided it clearly didn’t matter. And so I am not going to push you to do that. Let’s take an easier load. It didn’t matter.”

Test scores optional at U.

Robinson with the U. of U. said the university chose to make standardized tests optional for students.

“There are some students that really excel at testing. There are others that don’t excel necessarily in a four-hour examination. So we want students who did want us to know their scores to have that opportunity to present those to us,” he said. “We also just had students who — they didn’t want to share that [and] that was OK as well.”

Robinson said the U. of U. became test optional during the COVID-19 pandemic, but the school stayed test optional afterward because at the U. a student’s Grade Point Average (GPA) is a better indicator of post-enrollment academic success than standardized tests, such as ACT and SAT.

“That varies from campus to campus obviously based on the applicant pool. But what we’re seeing consistently over the last four years is that’s been the case here at the University of Utah.”

Related:

University of Utah indefinitely pauses SAT and ACT admissions requirements


Dave & Dujanovic can be heard weekdays from 9 a.m. to noon. on KSL NewsRadio. Users can find the show on the KSL NewsRadio website and app, as well as Apple Podcasts and Google Play. 

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Utah student earns perfect ACT score but rejected by MIT and BYU