The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

The official student newspaper of Lower Merion High School since 1929

The Merionite

Testing policies affect admissions

Students must consider how a college testing policies will impact their applications. While many are remaining test-optional, some are reinstating their testing requirement this upcoming year.

College admissions’ approach to standardized testing has undergone significant changes in recent years. Traditional admissions criteria that often required all applicants to send in their ACT/SAT scores has been challenged by various alternative policies. These changes came from the COVID-19 pandemic, where test centers used for ACT/SAT exams were closed due to strict health mandates. As students were faced with this challenge, colleges and universities introduced “test-optional” policies, which gave applicants the choice to not submit their test scores. Students who chose to still submit test scores would still have it evaluated with other factors of the application. However, if an applicant chooses not to report their scores, the schools will place a greater emphasis on other parts of the application such as GPA, class rank, and extracurricular activities. Following the pandemic, many institutions have chosen to maintain this policy, and others have opted to reinstate mandatory test submissions.

Graphic by Tillie Szwartz ’25

One of the most notable schools this applies to is Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), which offered a test-optional policy for one year. According to MIT news, the reason behind the decision was that “Research conducted by the admissions office shows that the standardized tests are an important factor in assessing the academic preparation of applicants from all backgrounds.” Additionally, the Dean of Admissions, Stuart Schmill, states that, “Standardized exams are most helpful for assisting the admissions office in identifying socioeconomically disadvantaged students who are well-prepared for MIT’s challenging education, but who don’t have the opportunity to take advanced coursework, participate in expensive enrichment programs, or otherwise enhance their college applications.” Following MIT’s lead, Georgetown University and many public universities in Georgia and Florida have also reinstated mandatory test submissions. This past February, Dartmouth became the first Ivy League institution to announce the requirement of test scores for the class of 2029. Under their admissions page, Darthmouth emphasizes a study conducted by a group of their economists which covers similar points addressed by MIT. In short, Darthmouth states that test scores are a great indicator for a student’s future academic performance at their institution. They also declare that sending in test scores actually helps them better identify economically disadvantaged students who are excelling with regard to their circumstances. Following Dartmouth’s decision, Yale and Brown University both announced that they too will be requiring applicants to send in their scores. 

Despite many prominent institutions reinstating test requirements, many still remain test optional. However, students should consider the pros and cons when deciding whether or not to submit their scores. While some institutions claim they are going to keep the submission of test scores optional for the upcoming admissions season, there are slight nuances to this. Students can determine if an institution values the importance of test scores by looking at their respective common data set report (CDS). Every year, colleges and universities fill out the CDS, which uses standardized questions to collect information about an institution’s admissions process, financial aid process and demographic information. he “C7 ” section lists the various academic and non academic factors considered in applications, such as GPA and extracurriculars. Colleges then mark each factor as very important, important, considered or not considered as a way to designate the level of importance each factor will play in an application. As an example, Princeton University has listed standardized test scores as “very important” in their CDS which indicates that they value test scores in admission. However in their admissions page it states that they will remain test optional. Similarly, Duke University has also stated that they remain test optional for the upcoming admissions year. However their CDS report also listed standardized tests as “very important.” On their admissions page they even advise juniors to, “Buy a study guide and begin taking practice SAT and ACT tests. They also add, “We recommend that a student take an official SAT or ACT in the springtime of their junior year.” 

Additionally, some test optional schools only admit a small percentage of students who opt not to submit their scores. For the University of Pennsylvania early decision admissions for the class of 2025, they reported that out of the admitted students, only 24% were accepted without test scores. This means that over half of the admitted class reported a test score.

As high school students prepare for college admissions, it is crucial for them to have a strategic approach that considers the impact that different testing policies could have on their college applications. For the students who have considered applying under the test-optional policy, it is important to recognize that while omitting test scores can alleviate the stress associated with standardized testing, it does not entirely mean it will be an easier process. Instead, colleges and universities will just place a heavier emphasis on other factors such as GPA, extracurricular activities, essays and recommendation letters. A student must ensure that other parts of their application stand out to replace the area where standardized test scores are missing. The students who have begun the preparation process for these standardized exams should continue to do so, as a strong test score can ultimately help them stand out in the admissions process. By having a deep understanding of test policies, students can approach college admissions with more confidence.

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