Students will be able to apply to Harvard University without taking the SAT or ACT for at least the next four years, according to a report from the PBS NewsHour.
Harvard announced last year that standardized tests would be optional for a year due to the lack of available or accessible testing sites during the COVID pandemic. This policy was extended for another year, and Harvard recently announced that testing will not be required through 2026 because of continuing challenges.
According to William Fitzsimmons, Harvard’s dean of admissions, there will be no penalty for those students who do not submit standardized test scores with their applications. “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.”
A permanent move away from standardized tests
There is a growing trend among colleges to extend the test-optional policy. The University of Wisconsin stated that test scores will remain optional through the spring 2025 semester. Stanford University will continue its policy through the 2022–2023 school year, and not long ago Miami University in Ohio extended its policy through spring 2023.
This is amid growing criticism that standardized tests favor wealthy, white applicants while putting minority and low-income families at a disadvantage. Several colleges are heeding the call to permanently remove the standardized test requirement.
The University of Kansas is allowing students with a high school GPA of 3.25 or higher to skip the SAT or ACT. Chancellor Douglas Girod stated that the policy was originally adopted in response to COVID, but that “people were figuring out quickly that these tests were creating barriers.”
The University of California stopped requiring test scores this year as part of a court settlement. They are the largest higher education establishment in the country to do so. UC chose to completely stop using test scores when confronted by a lawsuit from students and groups claiming that the SAT and ACT are biased against students of color.
Early next year, the governing board of the 480,000-student California State University system will study a proposal making test scores optional after a state board recommended it.
While COVID was the catalyst for many schools deciding to make SAT or ACT optional, at least temporarily, there was already a movement in this direction due to concerns about fair access to college. The admissions scandal of 2019 highlighted the issue of wealthy parents paying to cheat the system, but more generally, there have long been questions over equity of access to quality high-school test preparation services as well as private test-coaching.
According to Bob Schaeffer, executive director of the anti-testing organization FairTest, eliminating the testing requirement has led to a more diverse, academically superior applicant pool.
FairTest’s data shows that three-fifths of all US colleges have agreed to make standardized tests optional or ignore scores completely for fall 2023 applicants. Schaeffer stated, “evaluating undergraduate applicants without test scores is here to stay.”
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