The coronavirus pandemic has forced schools to shut their doors and forced The College Board, the organization that administers the SAT to cancel and postpone testing dates.
In response, many colleges announced they would temporarily not require students to submit standardized test scores, among them highly selective schools such as Williams College and CalTech as well as massive state university programs such as The University of California college system, which enrolls some 280,000 college students each year.
According to a report from nonprofit organization FairTest: the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, 85% of the 100 top liberal arts colleges ranked by U.S. News & World Report will be test-optional for 2021 admissions.
Ivy League colleges are also joining the temporary test-optional trend. So far, seven out of eight have made announcements about such adjustments which means that as of Wednesday, Princeton University is the only remaining Ivy League school that will continue to require the SAT or the ACT next year.
Some students will still be required to submit test scores; the Ivy League, which is the name of the athletic conference these prestigious schools are a part of, maintains that student-athletes should complete standardized testing and many transfer students will still be expected to have taken such exams as well.
Here's how the schools say they'll evaluate admissions for the next year:
Brown University released the following statement on June 12th:
"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.
Students who are unable to submit SAT or ACT scores this year due to COVID-19 will not be disadvantaged in our admission process. If this describes your situation, please know that your application will receive full consideration by our admission committee. We will continue to review test scores that are submitted, and will also bear in mind that those who do submit scores may not have been able to take the SAT or ACT more than once. There will be an opportunity within the Common Application to share with us how you may have been affected by the events of this year, including telling us how your testing plans were disrupted.
It is important to note that, while standardized testing has long been a component of our holistic admission process, it has always been one among many components that we consider. Testing can be informative, but is only one part of a much larger and more important story about an individual applicant. The SAT or ACT, when submitted, will continue to be considered in the context of all the other information we have about a candidate, and is one of multiple ways in which students may show preparedness for the rigors of Brown. For students who are not able to submit scores this year, we will look to other components of the application, from course grades and curricular rigor to insight from counselors and teachers, to assess academic preparation.
This year has been one of upheaval and uncertainty, and we hope that adopting a test-optional policy for the 2020-21 admission cycle will better enable students to prioritize their health and well-being, and that of their families, as the summer and fall continue to unfold. While the applications that students submit this year will undoubtedly look different than in years past, we remain committed to a thoughtful and thorough holistic review process."
Columbia University released the following statement on June 11th:
"Due to ongoing standardized testing disruptions associated with the COVID-19 pandemic, Columbia is adopting a one year test-optional policy for first-year applicants to Columbia College or Columbia Engineering for the fall of 2021.
If students have completed testing and can submit SAT or ACT results, we encourage them to do so as we believe this information can be a valuable addition in our review process. However, testing is no longer a required component for the first-year 2020-2021 application cycle, and students who are unable or choose not to submit test scores will not be disadvantaged. We will continue to evaluate all submitted information within the holistic and contextual review process that considers individual circumstances shaping each applicant's journey. The rigor of a student's curriculum, their academic achievement, and their demonstrated intellectual curiosity will remain central to our review.
For students able or who choose to submit testing, Columbia's testing policies remain the same. We accept SAT and ACT scores through November test dates for Early Decision applicants and scores through January for Regular Decision applicants. We will continue to accept self-reported scores and only require official testing for enrolling students. If you were able to take an exam more than once, you will be evaluated on the highest score you received in any individual section of that test. Please note that we are aware that many students, if able to test, could only take a test once. As noted above, that context will be taken into consideration should scores be provided. Standardized testing is only one component in a highly contextualized, multi-layered holistic review."
Cornell University released the following statement on April 22nd:
"The SARS-COV-2 pandemic emergency has led to many SAT and ACT administration cancellations. 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. This will be true for both the Early Decision and Regular Decision rounds of review.
For those who have taken, or who can take, ACT and SAT exams
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 administrations will continue to submit results, and those results will continue to demonstrate preparation for college-level work.
In Cornell's review during the 2020-2021 application cycle, results from the ACT or SAT might still be a meaningful differentiator in particular for students who:
- live near or attend a school that will be open, and where testing will be offered, or who live near a testing center that will be offering more testing seats or dates than they did in 2019; and
- have not experienced lost income for one or more of their household providers or other significant new hardships and losses during 2020.
We can't pre-define in absolute, comprehensive terms what economic or personal disruptions will look like. We don't plan to require any students to justify their reasons for not submitting test results, though we will hope to partner with applicants and their advocates throughout the reading period in order to understand each applicant's circumstances.
Students who have taken a test, or even more than one test, but would still prefer not to submit those results, can make that choice.
For those who can't plan for, take, and submit exams
Cornell readers will consider with increased scrutiny their other application documents, looking for different evidence of excellent academic preparation, including:
- challenging courses and excellent grades in each secondary school (high school) context. Note: there will be no negative interpretation for schools and students who have had only pass/fail or similar grading options during this current term;
- evidence of commitment and effort to pursuing other challenging learning experiences;
- results from other kinds of secondary, college-preparatory, and university-qualifying testing where available and verifiable;
- care, craft, and authenticity in their writing submissions;
- and wherever practical and available, details, insight, and analysis from secondary school counselors and teachers.
Applicants with no test results might more often be asked after review has begun for additional evidence of continuing preparation, including grade reports from current senior year enrollment when that can be made available in time for Cornell admission review."
Dartmouth College's Dean of Admissions released the following statement on June 3rd:
"Effective immediately, Dartmouth College is enacting a one-year suspension of our standardized testing requirement for candidates seeking undergraduate admission. 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.
"Optional" is not a trick word. It is not a wink that signals a continued institutional preference for the upcoming admissions cycle. This is not a moment for euphemisms or gimmicks; there should be no parsing of intent with this amended testing policy. It is a clear response to an unprecedented moment that requires admission officers to reimagine some of the elements we have historically required as we reassure anxious students about their upcoming applications. Worries about oversubscribed test sites, anxiety regarding limited registration access and the incongruity of test prep during a quarantine can be set aside.
At Dartmouth, we will welcome any testing element a student chooses to share—the SAT, the ACT, a subject test, an AP score—or none at all. Our admission committee will review each candidacy without second-guessing the omission or presence of a testing element. As with the other optional components of the application—an alumni interview, a peer recommendation—the decision to share testing as an element of holistic review is purely an individual one. For students who wish to submit an SAT or ACT score, we recommend just one test session.
We strongly advise students to focus on the many holistic elements of the application that showcase academic excellence in a more qualitative way. In addition, Dartmouth will not report a testing profile for the Class of 2025 to the campus or national media nor will we share one in our publications or on our website. If the goal is to "reduce anxiety for students," let's reduce the spotlight on testing during these uncertain times. Test prep and multiple test sessions are not good uses of a student's time, money, or emotional energy during an ongoing public health crisis."
Harvard University released the following statement on June 15th:
"Harvard College will allow students to apply for admission to the Class of 2025 without requiring standardized test scores. 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.
Consistent with Harvard's whole-person admissions process, standardized tests are only one factor among many. Accomplishments in and out of the classroom during the high school years – including community involvement, employment, and help given to students' families are considered as part of our process. However, students who find themselves limited in the activities they can pursue due to the current coronavirus outbreak will not be disadvantaged as a result, nor will students who are only able to present pass/fail grades or other similar marks on their transcripts this spring.
Students who do not submit standardized testing this coming year will not be disadvantaged in the application process. Their applications will be considered on the basis of what they have presented, and they are encouraged to send whatever materials they believe would convey their accomplishments in secondary school and their promise for the future."
The University of Pennsylvania released the following statement on June 4th:
"The College Board recently announced that an at-home version of the SAT will not be offered as planned. Meanwhile, the capacity for in-person examinations has been severely limited due to COVID-19 considerations. These combined factors will prevent thousands of students from taking the SAT exam. The scale of these challenges is unprecedented. With this in mind, Penn Admissions will not require the SAT or ACT for the 2020-21 first-year and transfer admissions cycles. Applicants who do not submit SAT or ACT scores will not be at a disadvantage in the admissions process. For international students attending schools where English is not the language of instruction, we continue to require either the TOEFL or IELTS exam. Students who are able to take the SAT or ACT and wish to report them may continue with that plan.
Penn Admissions acknowledges the benefits and limitations built into standardized tests. Beyond the admissions process, test results help institutions guide and support enrolling students. We also know that a single examination does not capture the ability, preparation, and potential of all students in an equal way. For this reason, standardized testing has always been only one part of a larger review process that considers many factors, including the rigor of coursework and performance in these courses. Penn Admissions will continue to review students, on an individual basis, consistent with our belief in a comprehensive whole-person review process."
Yale University released the following statement on June 12th:
"In response to the widespread disruptions caused by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Yale Office of Undergraduate Admissions will temporarily suspend its requirement that first-year applicants submit results from the ACT or SAT.
The change will be in effect during the 2020-2021 admissions cycle for applicants to the Class of 2025. Applicants who are unable to complete an exam or who choose not to report exam scores will not be disadvantaged in the selection process. As announced previously, SAT Subject Tests will not be considered during the 2020-2021 admissions cycle.
This one-year policy change reflects the extraordinary circumstances that students, families, and educators are currently facing. This policy applies only to students graduating from secondary school in the 2020-2021 academic year. Transfer applicants and students who intend to apply for admission to enroll in fall 2022 or later should plan to complete the ACT or SAT by the appropriate deadlines.
The Office of Undergraduate Admissions remains committed to a whole-person review process that relies on experienced application readers and a committee of admissions officers, faculty, and deans to consider every applicant's unique context and circumstances. This commitment extends to Yale's evaluation of a student's test scores, when available. For applicants who choose to send scores, the Admissions Committee will continue to view the scores within the context of the student's entire file; to focus on the highest individual section scores for students who have completed the exam more than once; to accept self-reported scores for the purposes of evaluation; and to take context into account if a student has had limited or no opportunities to complete an exam.
Whether an applicant chooses to report standardized test results or not, the committee will pay close attention to a student's high school transcript, letters of recommendation, and demonstrated academic drive and commitment. As always, the committee will make decisions with the best information available and with as much flexibility as possible to consider applicants from all backgrounds and experiences.
Students who have completed AP Exams, IB Exams, or AICE Exams prior to submitting their applications may opt to self-report scores in the application, but there is no expectation that students enrolled in academic-year courses associated with any of these tests complete exams in spring or summer 2020."