December 6, 2023

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Diving overview:

  • Columbia University will no longer require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores for undergraduate admissions, making it the first Ivy League institution to indefinitely adopt an optional testing policy.
  • The university introduced va report released on Wednesday that it created its application to allow flexibility for “students to fully represent themselves and demonstrate their academic talents,” but that entrance exams are not mandatory. Columbia waived its testing requirements in 2020 and has continually extended that exemption.
  • Ivy League institutions do not directly influence the majority of students in the higher education space, as only a fraction attend private for-profit colleges compared to open-access institutions. But Columbia’s decision resonates across a sector that often follows the lead of the most prestigious and visible colleges.

Diving Statistics:

It used to be unheard of for students to forgo standardized test scores if they wanted to attend a four-year institution, especially if that college was competitive.

The vast majority of community colleges do not require SAT or ACT scores. But for many years only a handful of competing institutions were voluntary.

Then came the spread of COVID-19 in 2020, closing the doors to traditional testing sites like K-12 schools and raising the warp speed testing movement.

That has pleased some critics of the testing, who say the SAT and ACT present barriers to disadvantaged students, especially students of color who can’t afford the same tutoring as their wealthier counterparts. Instead, the College Board and ACT testing providers say their products can connect students with scholarship opportunities.

There are more than 1,800 universities not requiring admission scores for fall 2023 applicants, according to FairTest, an organization advocating for limited use of standardized assessments.

This number includes institutions that historically have not mandated entrance exams.

Many colleges are still trying test-optional admissions exams during the pandemic that allow students to submit their scores if they choose, or no-test policies in which colleges refuse to review the exams at all.

Columbia first started electives in 2020 and then expanded them through subsequent admissions cycles.

Officials emphasized that applicants who provide test results will not be considered more favorably than those who do not. A standing policy of optional tests applies to Columbia College and The Fu Foundation School of Engineering and Applied Science.

“The submission of test scores will be considered just one more piece of information among the many factors we will consider in our ongoing practice of a holistic and contextual assessment process,” the university said.

Bob Schaeffer, FairTest’s director of public education, applauded Columbia’s decision in an email.

“Columbia confirms that fair and accurate admissions decisions can be made regardless of standardized test scores,” Schaeffer said. “FairTest expects many more schools that removed the ACT/SAT during the COVID pandemic to lock in their policies for a long time.”

Most of the other Ivy League institutions did not immediately respond to a request for comment Wednesday night. Harvard University spokeswoman Rachael Dane confirmed that the institution is voluntary until 2030.

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