What It Means for Students

  • Some colleges that were test-optional during the pandemic are now requiring SAT or ACT scores again.
  • These schools said achieving results would help them recruit a more diverse student body.
  • Yet the majority of colleges nationwide remain test-optional.

Some colleges are reintroducing standardized testing requirements into their admissions processes after removing them during the pandemic.

But they are still not the majority.

Since early 2024, some prestigious schools have announced that they will once again require SAT or ACT scores in applications from prospective students. Dartmouth, for example, announced in February that although it had adopted the “test optional” policy in response to the pandemic, it would reinstate the testing requirement for the Class of 2029.

“Our bottom line is simple: We believe that a standardized testing requirement will enhance, not detract from, our ability to attract the most promising and diverse students to our campus,” the university said in a statement.

Yale and Brown made similar announcements, claiming to have conducted studies who concluded that the test requirement was permissible them to attract the most diverse student body.

“Our analysis clearly showed that SAT and ACT scores are among the key indicators that help predict a student’s ability to succeed and thrive in Brown’s demanding academic environment,” said Brown’s dean. , Francis Doyle, in a press release.

However, these elite schools are still outnumbered by colleges that have decided that standardized tests are a barrier to admitting otherwise qualified applicants. More than 80% of colleges will offer test-optional admissions in fall 2025, according to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing.

“Test-optional policies continue to dominate at national universities, state flagships, and selective liberal arts colleges because they generally result in larger numbers of applicants, academically stronger applicants, and higher great diversity,” FairTest executive director Harry Feder said in a statement.

The advantages and disadvantages of standardized testing are the subject of long debate. While some argue that testing may disadvantage low-income students because they may not have access to the same tutoring resources as wealthier students, others argue that testing gives students from all backgrounds a way to show off their skills – and give schools an easy way to choose who they should admit.

Dominique Baker, an associate professor at the University of Delaware who studies education policy — primarily financial aid and admissions policies — told Business Insider that schools currently reinstating testing requirements have not chose to make testing optional because they thought it was. “a good political decision.” The pandemic forced them to do this because students couldn’t access testing sites, and that’s no longer a problem.

“The institutions that we’re talking about now are requiring testing again and don’t necessarily want to stop requiring testing,” Baker said. “It is important.”

Here’s what students should know about school policy changes this year — and what it could mean for them.

The return of certain testing requirements

While many Ivy League schools reinstating testing requirements have cited their goal as helping to expand diversity on campus, other schools have offered slightly different reasons for their policy change.

The University of Texas at Austin, for example, announced the reinstatement of testing requirements in March after moving to test-optional during the pandemic. His reason: Requiring test scores would help the school choose between many high school students with high GPAs.

“Our experience during the test-optional period has reinforced that standardized tests are a valuable tool in deciding who is admitted and ensuring that these students are placed in the majors that best suit them,” said the president of the university, Jay Hartzell, in a press release. “Additionally, with an abundance of high school GPAs around 4.0, especially among our automatic admits, an SAT or ACT score is a proven differentiator that is in the best interest of each student and the university.”

However, other schools that have adopted test-optional during the pandemic have chosen to maintain the practice. The University of Michigan, for example, announced in February that it would officially adopt a test-optional admissions policy. It says that since fall 2020, the school has seen “a significant increase in applications from students of all backgrounds,” suggesting that a test-optional policy has opened the door to a more diverse student body.

What this means for schools and students

One reason some schools have wanted to maintain test score requirements, Baker said, is their connection to financial aid. Although some financial aid is based on need – or the income level of a student or family – a college may choose to award aid based on merit, which it evaluates based on merit. help from a student’s GPA or test scores.

“Oftentimes the most generous state financial aid offered by these states requires test scores. And so what the state could do is say, ‘We took a very short break, but now we’re going back to requiring test scores for these ‘financial aid items,’ Baker said. “And state legislatures could also encourage institutions to require testing again. So I also think politics plays a role in this.”

Additionally, the wide range of testing policies can be confusing for students. For many schools, the two categories of test-optional and test-required are just umbrellas: there may be different policies within each college, such as requiring tests for a specialized program but not for regular admission.

Despite this, data showed that students continued to take tests despite applying to schools with test-optional policies. According to the College Board, 1.9 million students in the high school class of 2023 have taken the SAT at least once, an increase from 1.7 million in 2022.

Moving forward, Baker said it’s important that if more schools choose to change their testing policies, they consider the timing of the announcement.

“The more times you take the test, the better your score. So if an institution announces in February or March that they will require tests for the fall, then students really won’t have much time to take them.” Baker said. “And so I think the timing of the announcement and the timing of the policy going into effect really, really matters.”


Back to top button