Harvard, CalTech, Columbia, Brown & Others Make SAT/ACT Optional This Year

We're living in a brave new world.

SEE UPDATE BELOW In the last few months, hundreds of colleges and universities have gone test optional for the coming year because of COVID19 and the difficulties of testing. The Ivy League and a handful of other universities have been holdouts, but the news in today’s New York Times tells another story (the article is a compendium of pieces; scroll down for the one on testing):

“Some of the most selective schools in the country have announced that they are making the SAT and the ACT optional for at least the coming application cycle, including Brown University, Carnegie Mellon, Columbia and Cornell, according to FairTest.

“Bob Schaeffer, the president of FairTest, said that if the past was any guide, some schools would not restore the testing requirement when the pandemic was over.

“And on Monday night, Harvard said that because of disruptions caused by the pandemic, it will not require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores for the next admissions cycle, putting the imprimatur of perhaps the country’s most prestigious university on the building move away from the use of standardized tests in admissions.

“’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,’” Harvard said in the announcement, posted on its website.

“’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.

“With the addition of Harvard, 1,241 of the 2,330 institutions that granted bachelor’s degrees during the 2018-19 academic year have now made the tests optional, according to FairTest, an anti-testing organization that is keeping track of the movement. That number includes nearly 200 colleges and universities that — like Harvard — have at least temporarily dropped the testing requirement since the virus began spreading in the spring. Many spring test dates were canceled because of the pandemic, making it difficult for students to take the test and submit their scores.

“Harvard has long said that standardized tests are only a small part of what the admissions office considers. The announcement said that students also will not be penalized for having pass/fail grades or limited extracurricular activities because of the virus. The tests will be optional for those applying to Harvard’s Class of 2025; regular applicants must submit by Jan. 21, 2021.

UPDATE: An article from INSIDE HIGHER ED just came to my attention (5:10pm), with a few more names. Notably, CAL TECH is going test blind for TWO YEARS.

I will update this information as I find out more, but there are two sources of information you can go to directly: the websites of the individual colleges and universities and Fairtest’s list.

Please get in touch if you’re looking for help of any kind with your college applications, essays, and strategies. Liz@DontSweatTheEssay.com

And stay safe and sound.