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For American and international students alike, the SAT and/or ACT are the benchmarks of a US university application. No application is complete without a four (in the case of the SAT) or two (in the case of the ACT) number score allowing admissions officers to compare the academic eligibility of the tens of thousands of candidates hoping to gain acceptance each year.
While standardized testing has always been a constant in the application process, the COVID-19 pandemic has seen unprecedented change in the ways students are learning and building their college applications. Remote classes, closed high schools and cancelled testing dates have led many colleges and universities to not only make optional, but also to waive the SAT or ACT requirement altogether.
The University of California system, of which UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Davis and UC Irvine are a part, led this trend towards optionalising standardised testing when they made the announcement in late May that they were phasing out such requirements for the next four years.
Schools belonging to the UC system are even planning to create their own standardized test, which they believe will “better align with the content the University expects students to have mastered for college readiness". The university believes that waiving the requirement will have no effect on the types of candidates who choose to apply, claiming that the university will continue to attract top students. The university system has stated that the SAT and ACT will be completely phased out by 2025, even if their own standardised test is not yet deemed ready.
The UC system’s choice to revamp standardised testing requirements, whilst a response to the changing learning environment during the COVID-19 pandemic, also seeks to address long-running concerns as to the equality of the SAT or ACT. Critics of the current standardized testing requirements argue that they put lower-income and minority students at a disadvantage, favouring those who can afford expensive tuition and preparatory courses.
In regards to making standardised testing optional, all of the eight Ivy League schools have now followed suit, waiving the SAT and ACT requirements for prospective students for the Class of 2025. Read below to find out which universities so far have changed or waived altogether standardized testing requirements for US college applicants:
Harvard is the most recent university to announce that they will not require students to submit their standardized test results in applying to the Class of 2025. A statement on the university’s website says, "we understand that the COVID-19 pandemic has created insurmountable challenges in scheduling tests for all students, particularly those from modest economic backgrounds, and we believe this temporary change addresses these challenges.”
Due to the changes that have been experience by the year’s events, Brown has also joined the list of growing Ivy League Universities that are not requiring SAT or ACT exams as part of a student’s application to the Class of 2025. As per their website, Brown recognises that “while we cannot change the realities of these unprecedented circumstances, we can change our admission policy to address the challenges with which we are confronted.” Although this year’s application round will see these changes implemented, they also, like others will only be issuing special consideration for this year as per their statement that, “for first-year applicants in the 2020-21 admission cycle, Brown is now test optional. This change is for the 2020-21 academic year only.”
A recent spokesperson for Cornell released a statement, explaining, ‘due to this extraordinary circumstance, students seeking to enroll at Cornell University beginning in August 2021 can submit their applications without including the results from ACT or SAT exams.’ However, this change is not permanent. The university argues that for applicants of the 2020-21 cycle who have already sat the test, results may still act as an important differentiator. For those unable to sit the test, the university states that they will simply place other sections of the applications under further scrutiny. Athletes looking to receive likely letters are still required to sit one of the tests in line with Ivy League policy.
In an email sent out from college officials last Wednesday, Dartmouth has chosen to suspend undergraduate standardized testing requirements this upcoming year. Dartmouth’s Dean of Admissions Lee Coffin commented: “Dartmouth College is now test optional for the Class of 2025. In normal circumstances, standardized testing offers useful statistical context for the holistic evaluation of a student's academic record as well as our essential assessment of preparation for the curriculum we offer. But this moment is not normal. As I noted in an earlier blog post, we promised to adapt our admissions requirements as the situation evolved and as warranted. The situation has evolved, and a policy pause is now warranted. However, our commitment to academic excellence and intellectual curiosity has not changed.”
Due to the testing disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, Columbia University has announced that prospective students for the Class of 2025, the SAT and ACT will not be mandatory requirements for application. The university still, however, encourages students who have already sat the test(s) to submit their results, believing it can still offer admissions officers important information. Once again, in line with Cornell’s statement above, student-athletes looking to be recruited to Columbia must take either the SAT or ACT in line with Ivy League policy.
Acknowledging the unprecedented difficulties in obtaining access to standardized testing, due to the College Board failing to offer an online alternative to the SAT and the limitations on in-person exams due to the COVID-19 pandemic, UPenn have announced that they have waived the testing requirement for applicants of the Class of 2025. Once again, recruited athletes must take a test in accordance with Ivy League policy.
In a recent statement to students in the 2020/2021 applications round Yale also announced: In response to the global health crisis and the cancellation of several test administrations, the Admissions Committee will not consider SAT Subject Tests for first-year applicants during the 2020-2021 admissions cycle (Class of 2025). Applicants to the Class of 2025 who have already completed one or more SAT Subject Tests should not self-report scores, and any scores sent to Yale will not be made available to the Admissions Committee.
While the above seven Ivy League schools have announced SAT/ACT score submission is not mandatory, Princeton University is yet to make an announcement around the requirement. However in a letter to the prospective Class of 2025, the university stated that “ it did not expect students to take the tests more than once” and that scores only make up part of the consideration in the application process.
Following in Harvard’s footsteps, Princeton has similarly announced that they will be waiving SAT subject requirements. The dean of admissions, Karen Richardson, stated, “while our policy has long been that SAT subject tests are recommended but not required, now seems the appropriate time to reiterate that applicants who do not submit subject tests will not be disadvantaged in our process.” She added: “SAT or ACT test scores are only one part of our holistic review.”
Other universities offering test-optional policies for the Class of 2025: