Brown University Is Reinstating Standardized Testing Requirements for the Class of 2029

07/03/202411 minute read
Brown University Is Reinstating Standardized Testing Requirements for the Class of 2029

This week Brown University announced it will reinstate standardized testing for admissions, beginning with the Class of 2029 (applicants for the Fall of 2025). Brown's decision is more evidence of an emerging shift away from test-optional policies instituted in response to the pandemic. Brown is now the third Ivy League School in a matter of months to announce plans to revert to testing requirements.

In announcing the decision, Brown officials cited an effort to ensure the school's admissions policies "uphold Brown's commitments to academic excellence, access and diversity." This is an important development for students aspiring to apply to Brown or other Ivy League schools in the near future. In this post we'll share what Brown officials are saying about test scores and holistic admissions, and highlight some other recommendations made by the school's admissions committee.

Brown Will Require Test Scores for the Class of 2029

On March 5, 2024 Brown University President Christina H. Paxson announced she is accepting the recommendations of a school committee tasked with reviewing the school's admissions policies.

Recommendations include reinstating standardized testing requirements for the next admissions cycle, in the Fall of 2025. This means students applying to Brown's Class of 2029 will need to submit SAT or ACT scores.

The test score requirement will not apply to transfer students.

According to the announcement, Brown University policy will emphasize using student test scores as informative indicators of a student's potential for success in the context of a holistic approach to evaluating all applicants and in support of efforts to build a diverse student body.

Starting with next year’s application cycle (effective for the Class of 2029), Brown will reinstate the requirement that applicants for first-year admission submit standardized tests scores (the SAT or ACT, except in the rare circumstance when these tests are not available to a student). This will accompany enhanced communications to students and school counselors emphasizing that test scores are interpreted in the context of a student’s background and educational opportunities.

Brown officials point out that the committee's recommendations were made in the context of "national conversations" about how to align admissions policies, and testing requirements, with efforts to foster and sustain student communities that "are diverse by many measures."

The Larger Context

Historically SAT/ACT exams have played a pivotal role in admissions decisions at top-tier universities, since they provide an objective indicator, compared to GPA which is often impacted by school or classroom policies, or by inequitable educational opportunities.

Brown, like many universities, adopted a “test-optional” policy in response to the pandemic. This policy made submitting standardized test scores up to the discretion of the applicant.

Addressing Equity & Inclusion

Brown officials contend the decision to reinstate testing was informed in part by looking at past student body data, from before the COVID-19 pandemic, in comparison to admissions data from the very recent "test optional" period.

Members of the committee that made the recommendations found that test scores have shown a high correlation with academic outcomes for individual students, making the scores reliable predictors of a student's ability to thrive educationally at the school.

However, the committee believes the test scores need be used affirmatively, helping admissions officers identify all of the applicants who are poised to succeed at Brown, including students with more disadvantaged backgrounds or who had less educational opportunities prior to college.

Consideration of test scores in the context of each student’s background will advance Brown’s commitment to academic excellence and the University’s focus on ensuring that talented students from the widest possible range of backgrounds can access a Brown education.

— Francis J. Doyle III, Brown University Provost

If you're aiming for admissions to Brown and worried about the new requirement, keep in mind that the school found that requiring test scores should increase chances for admission for many students from less-advantaged backgrounds.

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When Does the New Testing Requirement Start?

Brown's reinstated testing requirement will go into effect for students applying to Brown's Class of 2029, which means students applying to enter Brown in the Fall of 2025 need to report SAT or ACT scores.

If you're wondering about meeting this requirement, you can get help by reading SAT vs. ACT: What's The Difference And Which Test Should You Take?

What About Early Decision & Legacy Admissions at Brown?

When announcing their plan to reinstate standardized testing, Brown officials also announced there would be no changes to Early Decision admission policy, nor to so-called legacy admission practices, at least for now.

Early Decision Recommendations

The committee that reviewed admissions policies recommended that Brown sustain its Early Decision option, but provide more robust communication to help ensure "that applicants, families and counselors are educated about online financial aid calculators in order to remove uncertainty about financial aid awards that may deter some potential Early Decision applicants."

What does this mean if you're thinking about applying to Brown and considering whether or not to submit an Early Decision application?

In essence, the committee wants the University to make sure that ED applicants are aware of financial aid policies, namely that Brown's policy is to meet 100% of demonstrated need, so students and families can anticipate that support ahead of time and as they decide whether or not to commit to a potential ED offer.

There's also some good news if you plan to apply as a Regular Decision applicant. For example, the committee didn't want ED opportunities to overly eclipse the competitive status of RD applicants, knowing that for many deserving applicants ED would simply not be a suitable option. Committee members recommended that the university monitor admissions data to ensure "that Regular Decision remains a viable option for applicants not prepared to commit early."

Learn more about What is Early Decision?

Learn more about What Are the Differences Between Early Decision and Early Action?

Legacy AdmissionsQuestioned but Not Changed (for Now)

Current practices for applicants with family connections, including 'legacies' and children of faculty and staff, will remain unchanged, according to Brown's announcement. However, the committee acknowledged this was a difficult issue, with committee members unable to reach a clear consensus.

Consequently, the policies around legacy admissions remain unchanged but have been called out for further scrutiny. As such, Brown officials announced that, so-called legacy admissions practices at its school will be subject to further review, including active efforts to gather input from the larger Brown community.

Learn more about legacy admissions controversies.

Which Top Schools Still Have Test-Optional or Test-Blind Admissions?

Many schools moved away from standardized testing requirements out of concerns about test bias, fairness in admissions, or else as a practical matter in response to pandemic isolation.

This means many top schools still do not require SAT/ACT scores for admissions, in most cases giving students the option to submit or not submit test scores.

Harvard has stated it’s test-optional policy is in place up through its Class of 2030. We’ll have to see what direction Harvard takes on its standardized testing policy after that.

Unlike Harvard, other Ivies, such as Cornell, Columbia, Princeton, and UPenn all went test-optional, but only through 2023, or 2024.

Consequently, we are advising our students and parents to be on the look out for what happens in subsequent years at those schools. Will they extend test-optional policies, or will they too be making announcements about reinstating standardized testing policies, following the lead of Dartmouth, Yale, and now Brown?

The University of California system currently has a test-blind admissions policy in effect and has not announced plans to change its policy.

The University of Chicago also has stopped requiring test scores for admissions, using a test-optional policy with a “No Harm” provision. According to the school any SAT or Act score submitted will only be used in review if it will positively affect an applicant’s chance of admission.

MIT, on the other hand, reinstated standardized testing policy over a year ago, for students applying to enter in the Fall of 2023.

Stanford has extended its test-optional policy through the Fall of 2025.

Learn more about the Top 100 Colleges That Are Test-Optional in 2024/25

Learn more about the Top Colleges That Require SAT/ACT Scores in 2024/25

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How Can Students Respond to a Shifting Admissions Landscape?

Given the shifting landscape, you may want to think about how to best prepare for a college admissions future where test score requirements are once again the norm!

Here are some simple and practical steps students and families can take to do just that:

  • Learn about the concepts tested by enrolling in relevant and rigorous courses in English and math
  • Make a plan that will help you achieve the best scores possible, including study resources and practice tests
  • Get help from a highly qualified online tutor
  • Be diligent about SAT/ACT testing and reporting timelines

These are all practical steps you can take, steps our Advisors find to be very effective in helping students chart a path to a better SAT/ACT score that fully reflects their potential!

What Makes Crimson Different

Final Thoughts

With Brown being the third Ivy League school in a short time period to announce a plan to reinstate testing, after first Dartmouth, then Yale, it seems a national conversation is picking up steam, with a focus on the practical ways standardized test scores can inform admissions processes.

Statements from all three schools, Dartmouth, Yale, and now Brown spotlight concerns about equity, making it a prominent issue in what appears to be a gradual move away from the pandemic-era test optional policies.

Whether for making a decision about whether to take the SAT or ACT, or for other kinds of personalized admissions planning, students are encouraged to book a free consultation with a Crimson counselor in order to start charting a more confident path to Brown or other leading universities.