Harvard on Thursday said it won't require applicants submit SAT or ACT scores through 2026, as the Ivy League institution joins other colleges that are either temporarily or permanently becoming "test optional" for would-be students.
That means that students seeking entry into the classes of 2027, 2028, 2029 and 2030 won't need to send Harvard an SAT or ACT score as part of their application.
"Students who do not submit standardized test scores will not be disadvantaged in their application process," said William R. Fitzsimmons, dean of admissions and financial aid, in a statement.
He added, "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."
The move comes amid a debate about the fairness of the tests, given that Black and Latino students on average score lower than White students, an issue that experts say reflects generational gaps in education, income and other standards of well-being. But experts also note that SAT or ACT scores don't actually predict how a student will perform in college — instead, grades are much more predictive of college success.
At the same time, some students have struggled to take standardized tests during the pandemic, and Harvard cited the ongoing health crisis as one reason it is moving to a test-optional policy through 2026. Many colleges switched to a test-optional policy last year, when many SAT testing dates were canceled during the onset of the pandemic.
Other colleges and universities are also moving to test-optional policies temporarily or permanently. Among them are fellow Ivy League institutions Columbia University and Cornell University, which have both gone test optional for applicants entering in the fall of 2024.
Interestingly, the switch to a test-optional policy boosted the numbers of applications to many of the nation's most prestigious schools. Without feeling that they needed a top SAT or ACT score to apply, more students threw their applications into the pool — and as a result of the surge in applications, Ivy League schools like Harvard had.
Last year, Harvard accepted 3.4% of applicants compared with 4.9% the previous year, while Columbia's rate dropped to 3.7%, from 6.1% — a record low for both institutions. Other Ivies also reported reduced admission compared with a year ago, when COVID-19 first shuttered the U.S. economy.
On Thursday, Harvard said that it accepted 740 students via early action out of a poll of 9,406 applicants, or an acceptance rate of 7.8%. Early action decisions typically have a higher acceptance rate than the regular admissions round.
Harvard will send acceptances for its regular-decision applicants in late March.
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