Published: Oct. 22, 2020 By

Qualifying domestic applicants can also apply for free

Graduate student at microscope in robotics labApplicants to all CU Boulder engineering graduate programs will not be required to submit GRE scores this fall, an acknowledgement of the disruption caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

And for the third consecutive year, the college is covering application fees for certain domestic PhD applicants, removing another common barrier as part of an ongoing effort to improve access and diversify its student body.

“Students have been facing unprecedented challenges during this pandemic, and we want to ensure that these difficulties don’t deter them from continuing their education,” said interim Dean Keith Molenaar.

In some departments, students who have already taken the GRE and feel it will enhance their application for a master’s or doctoral program can still submit their scores. However, students will not be penalized or evaluated based on the GRE, and it won’t be used to compare students to one another, said Meredith Canode, director of graduate programs in the College of Engineering and Applied Science.

“With the unrest of COVID affecting testing centers and the risk to applicants of gathering indoors for several hours to complete a test, we can’t in good conscience ask them to bear the expense and burden of the GRE in this year’s application cycle,” Canode said.

Although the decision was prompted this year by coronavirus concerns, the pause comes amid growing skepticism nationwide about the merits of standardized testing and its impact on higher education admissions.

Some institutions have dropped the GRE as an application requirement in recent years after studies found that the scores are a poor predictor of graduate school success and raised concerns that the test disadvantages minority and low-income students.

As a result, some CU Engineering departments have removed the GRE requirement permanently, some are phasing it out starting this year, and others are piloting a GRE-free admissions cycle to see how the application pool changes in response.

“We’ve been engaged in the national conversation around testing and admissions, and we at CU Engineering agree that the time for change is now,” said Charles Musgrave, associate dean for graduate programs. “Removing the GRE requirement this year will give us some excellent insights into the role the test plays in evaluating candidates.”

Musgrave said the college has been taking steps toward a more equitable application process, including requiring implicit bias training for all committees that review graduate applications. The college also has revamped graduate visit days to allow prospective students to connect with faculty and discuss their passions, goals, uniqueness and ultimately foster a greater sense of belonging.

“GRE or not, we’re striving to consider applications holistically, rather than focusing extensively on a single test score,” Musgrave said. “We also want to know how creative the applicants are, challenges they’ve overcome, and what they can offer to our college community.”

Applying for free

The college is also absorbing the $60 application fee for qualifying PhD applicants who apply early.

The offer is automatically granted to any U.S. citizen or permanent resident applying to an engineering PhD program who has at least a 3.4 GPA from their accredited undergraduate institution and meets all department requirements for their doctoral program of choice. Applicants must apply by Nov. 15, 2020, to avoid application fees.

The program is intended to support the college’s efforts to become a premier destination for the nation’s graduate students.

Last year, nearly 350 applicants took advantage of the offer.

“We hope these steps, along with other ongoing efforts, will move us toward a more equitable and supportive environment for our graduate applicants while continuing to attract a highly qualified group of students,” Musgrave said. “We’re dedicated to supporting students from the moment of application through their time at CU Boulder and beyond graduation.”