More than a thousand schools have made the SAT and ACT tests optional for the upcoming admissions cycle in order to comply with social distancing guidelines. These schools include prestigious colleges and universities like the University of California, Haverford, Pomona, Tufts, Vassar, Williams and Amherst. Under the test-optional admissions policies, students are not required to submit test scores for admission purposes.
Even before the COVID-19 pandemic, there were already complaints about the fairness of considering test scores in admissions even before the pandemic. According to Paul Tough, author of “The Years That Matter Most: How College Makes or Breaks Us,” colleges and universities can also use test scores to justify the admission of privileged students who do not need or need less financial aid.
There is evidence that prospective students maybe more likely to apply under test-optional conditions even if they do not meet a college’s required SAT or ACT scores. More applicants will translate to a more diverse pool of prospective students. Aside from increasing diversity, the adoption of test-optional admissions policies can boost the national rankings of highly selective colleges. This is because they will get more applications which will lower their acceptance rates. And since students with below-average scores are not likely to report their grades, the school’s average test scores will increase.
Many colleges and universities are adopting the test-optional policies each week, but it is not clear whether it will remain after the crisis. Most of them adopt the policy only of the upcoming admissions cycle. Only a few, like Vassar, see it as a pilot project for the future.