Colleges go test-optional to ease burden on students

Some colleges and universities have made the change permanent
By: | March 31, 2020
(Yustinus Tjiuwanda/Unsplash)

A growing number of colleges and universities have gone test-optional, dropping requirements for SAT and ACT standardized test scores as the coronavirus outbreak hinders students’ access to the exams.

Tufts University near Boston, like many other institutions, is thinking beyond the current coronavirus outbreak. Dean of Admissions JT Duck announced the school is shifting to a test-optional policy for three years, starting with fall 2021 applicants.

“In light of the extraordinary circumstances—brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic—that students are confronting as they complete this academic year, and the interrupted access to standardized tests around the globe this Spring, as well as our commitment to an admissions process that serves students well, we are making an important change to our admissions requirements,” Duck wrote on a blog on the university’s website.

Nearby, Boston University has made SAT and ACT scores optional for fall 2021 and spring 2022 applicants.


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“We understand that now, more than ever, high school juniors across the country and around the world will be especially impacted by this shifting landscape as you embark on your college search,” Kelly A. Walter, the dean of admissions and associate vice president for enrollment, wrote on the university’s website. “The cancellation of SAT and ACT test administrations combined with the suspension of on-campus visitation programs will make the college search for you quite different than that of preceding classes.”

Many public institutions in Oregon, including the Univesity of Oregon and Oregon State University, have also dropped SAT and ACT requirements. Some have made the change permanent.

The Univesity of Oregon has been placing less and less emphasis on SAT and ACT scores in recent years because the tests do not reveal all students’ potential, Jim Rawlins, the director of admissions and assistant vice president for student services and enrollment management, said on the Univesity of Oregon’s website.

“We already use a holistic approach in our admissions process that takes many factors into account: the student’s local context of school and surroundings, the choices they make within their curriculum, and the diverse and varied perspectives they bring to our campus community,” Rawlins wrote.


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Oregon State also will drop its SAT/ACT requirement for future applicants.

“Standardized tests add very little to our ability to predict an individual student’s success at a university or college,” Jon Boeckenstedt, vice provost for enrollment management, said in a university news release. “I have seen clear patterns that—when weighted heavily in the admissions process —standardized tests provide admissions advantages to students who are already advantaged, including students from higher-income families.”

Leaders at Quincy University in Illinois also say coronavirus disruptions have led them to institute a test-optional policy the school had been exploring over the last few years.

“The impact of the COVID-19 pandemic made clear that we had to make this decision immediately,” President Brian McGee said. “No student should have to wait indefinitely for an admissions decision because of the current admissions crisis.”


Find UB’s complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed on our coronavirus page