A Look at the Return of the SAT & ACT at Top Universities

Recently, Harvard University joined several other leading educational institutions and reversed its ACT/SAT test-optional policy for undergraduate admissions. 

When access to testing became complicated during the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of colleges and universities across the U.S. relaxed their policies on including ACT/SAT test scores as part of the admittance requirements. 

Harvard joins Yale, Brown, Dartmouth, CalTech, and many other high-profile schools in restoring the standardized test requirement. Many higher-learning institutes still do not require ACT or SAT testing for undergraduates, but the number of those that do can be expected to increase over the next several years. 

Why Are the SAT and ACT Returning?

Access to schools and testing sites was a major obstacle during the pandemic. The inability of some students to find safe testing options prompted the decision to ease the requirement. 

Several organizations and individuals have long held the belief that standardized tests can be discriminatory to students from disadvantaged backgrounds. 

While studies have shown that differences in school quality and other environmental factors may affect some students’ test scores, researchers on the topic of ACT and SAT testing also found that test-optional practices may harm low-income students in the long run. 

Historically, test scores have been one of the factors — along with essays, grades, and teacher recommendations — that give admission officers an idea of whether a student would excel at their institution. However, a study by Dartmouth researchers concluded that test scores were actually a better indicator than other factors. 

Yale researchers have come to similar conclusions and report that test scores are a better predictor of a student’s future success at Yale than their family income or other demographic variables. 

Ultimately, it may be true that the process of testing may be unfair to some, but test scores are still the best way to identify students who are academically prepared regardless of challenging life circumstances. 

What to Expect Now

A Look at the Return of the SAT & ACT at Top Universities

To start, reinstating the testing requirement may not be the big change it seems to be. Though many institutions have considered test scores as “optional,” that doesn’t mean all students stopped taking the ACT/SAT. Many undergraduates have continued to submit their standardized test scores. 

The biggest change may be for students who now feel pressure to prepare for a test they weren’t planning on taking. However, Harvard has indicated the school’s policy would remain test-optional through 2030. 

In most cases, there is no rush to meet the testing requirements, but current middle-school and high-school students should be aware that their top college picks may once again consider test scores a required part of the admissions package. 

Set Your Student Up for Success

Colleges understand that schools, teachers, and grading policies vary widely nationwide. Standardized tests may not be a fair assessment of every student’s academic ability, but they do give high-achieving students from disadvantaged backgrounds the best chance to compete with students from more affluent communities. 

There are still many colleges and universities that consider test scores optional. However, high SAT or ACT scores will give your student more options when deciding which schools will best serve their academic needs. Even if you are not certain they will be needed, including strong scores in your admissions package is never a mistake. If you want to reach the best scores possible then tutoring or courses could be for you, find out how we can help you today.