FEB 02, 2021
Last spring, US universities began announcing that they would make standardized tests optional for students applying to the Class of 2025 as the COVID-19 pandemic presented a myriad of difficulties for those trying to find open testing centers amid widespread shutdowns. The trend rippled through the US college landscape and by fall, hundreds of universities had announced they were suspending the SAT/ACT requirement for the 2020-21 application cycle, including all eight Ivy League schools.
This year, months ahead of last year’s timeline, US colleges are already beginning to extend their test-optional policy for at least one more application cycle. Cornell announced last week that applicants to the Class of 2026 would not be required to submit standardized test scores with their applications and Harvard, Columbia, Dartmouth and UPenn have all followed suit. And the trend extends far beyond the Ivies, with several other top colleges making similar announcements.
Columbia said in an announcement that the decision to remain test-optional for another year came “in response to continued disruptions to standardized testing availability due to the COVID-19 pandemic,” with other colleges’ statements echoing the same explanation. Dartmouth pointed out “our requirements, our priorities, and our focus must continue to adjust to the reality we face.”
Columbia noted that students who do not submit test scores “will not be at a disadvantage” and further, those who do submit scores “will not have an advantage,” — another sentiment reflected across schools’ announcements — adding “standardized testing is only one component in a highly contextualized, multi-layered holistic review.” Harvard similarly emphasized its “whole-person admissions process” means test scores are “only one factor above many.”
Colleges extending their test-optional policies into the next application cycle have stressed their holistic approach to application evaluation, maintaining that prospective students will be assessed by all parts of their application and, as Dartmouth stated, “what’s in the file rather than what is missing from it.”
If the upcoming admissions cycle is anything like the previous one, the test-optional trend will feasibly extend to most — if not all — top US universities. What’s more, with another year of relaxed testing requirements and COVID-19 restrictions, this year’s record-high application numbers could foreshadow another exceptionally competitive year to come.
For students planning to apply to the Class of 2026 in the US, and especially for those who are unable to take the SAT or ACT, this will likely place more weight on their Essays and Activities List. To learn more about how Crimson helps students across the globe perfect all aspects of their college applications, click the link below to schedule a free consultation with one of our academic advisors.