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Cornell to Go Test-Optional for a Second Application Cycle

JAN 27, 2021 • 5 min read

Due to COVID-19 circumstances, all 8 Ivy League universities announced last summer that they would not require applicants to the Class of 2025 to submit SAT or ACT scores. Yesterday, Cornell announced it will suspend the standardized test requirement for another application cycle, making tests optional for applicants to the Class of 2026 as well.

The current university admissions round has all but upended the status quo when it comes to standardized testing in the US. A long-time staple of college applications, the SAT and ACT have traditionally provided admissions officers with an objective, quantitative measure of a student’s eligibility for admission — but due to unsafe and uncertain conditions created by the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020, numerous US institutions (including all 8 Ivies, Stanford and all University of California schools) opted to let applicants to the Class of 2025 submit their applications without standardised test scores.

Today, Cornell University announced a continuation of their ‘test-optional’ application status for the Class of 2026, elaborating that while this decision was made in an effort to assure the health and safety of their applicants, if students can access an SAT/ACT exam safely or have already secured scores, they will welcome the reporting as part of their admissions process.

“Cornell overall has not planned to adopt a test-optional admission policy permanently. As appears to be true at test-optional colleges and universities, we anticipate that many students who will have had reasonable and uninterrupted opportunities to take the ACT and/or SAT during 2020-2021 administrations will continue to submit results, and those results will continue to demonstrate preparation for college-level work,” Cornell announced on their website.

They further urged students to seek other ways, such as submitting results from challenging courses or other university qualifying testing as part of their application.

This news comes after last week’s announcement by the College Board that they will be eliminating the optional SAT Essay and Subject Tests in an attempt to reduce demands on students, meaning they’ll have to lean more on AP courses and A-Levels to “showcase their skills” in specific subject areas. Further, the move could place more weight on other components of the application such as the Personal Statement and Activities List.

In May of last year, the University of California system (composed of UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Davis and UC Irvine) were the first to announce their plans to go test-optional, which preceded a broad trend of other US universities following suit. Cornell’s announcement to extend their test-optional position to the class of 2026 applicants comes nearly 10 months ahead of their earliest application deadline.

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