Elite colleges are extending their test-optional policies

by Emma


Dive Brief:

  • Several elite colleges have announced in recent weeks that they are extending temporary admissions policies not requiring applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores, representing another setback for testing providers. 

  • Among the institutions to do so are Baylor, Columbia, Cornell, Harvard and Rice universities, as well as Boston and Williams colleges.

  • Colleges were doing away with entrance exam mandates prior to the pandemic, and testing experts predict few will return to their old practices once the health crisis relents.

Dive Insight:

The coronavirus swept the country last spring, shutting down K-12 campuses, which are common SAT and ACT testing sites. In recognition of the difficulties students faced sitting for the exams, most four-year colleges discontinued their testing requirements for at least the fall 2021 admissions cycle, the notable exception being Florida’s public universities.

FairTest, a nonprofit that lobbies for equitable uses of standardized exams, has tracked at least 1,680 schools that were test-optional for fall 2021, and it “is certain” 1,200 or more institutions won’t require them for most or all fall 2022 applicants, its interim executive director, Bob Schaeffer, wrote in an email Friday.

The fall 2022 list includes the more than 1,000 schools that went test-optional prior to the pandemic. Others to announce extensions include the University of Pennsylvania, as well as Adelphi University, in New York, and the College of Charleston, in South Carolina.

“By announcing test-optional extensions, schools both recognize that many admissions testing sites remain closed and lift a burden off potential applicants,” Schaeffer wrote, noting FairTest anticipates more institutions to follow suit in the coming weeks.

The developments mark continued problems for the College Board and ACT, which make the tests. 

The College Board recently scrapped its SAT subject tests and largely did the same with the optional essay piece of the exam. 

The companies have come under fire for not supporting students adequately during the pandemic. 

Enrollment professionals have accused them of being more preoccupied with their revenue streams than removing barriers for applicants. The College Board’s own research, for instance, showed that getting rid of the SAT essay could hurt students of color and those whose best language isn’t English, according to The Hechinger Report.


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