Watch CBS News

Stanford to reintroduce standardized test requirements

Stanford to reintroduce test requirements
Stanford to reintroduce test requirements 04:23

Applying to Stanford will once again mean having to take the SAT or ACT. The school becomes the latest to reinstate the standardized testing requirement after most colleges dropped it several years ago.

But that does not necessarily mean the tests are making a widespread comeback.

"Well it tells us that Stanford is kind of following the pack on this one," said John Raftrey of Raftrey College Advising. "I would have expected them to be out front, but MIT, Harvard, and the Iveys have done this months ago, and finally Stanford seemed to figure out they needed to get in the line along with everybody else."

Raftrey said the return of standardized testing is a story with two essential parts.

"The first thing is Covid," he explained. "During Covid students couldn't take the tests. Test centers were canceled. So colleges had to let in without test scores or they wouldn't have any students."

Another component is the age of weighted grade, when some schools can boast 40% of a graduating class with a 4.0.

"And so when they see everybody with straight A's," Raftrey said of admissions offices. "Straight A's don't mean what they used to mean."

Add it up and many of the nation's most selective schools were seeing applications jump 50% a year.

"And so these schools were just deluged with applications," Raftrey said. "At one point I think they just got overwhelmed, and they were having trouble making decisions, because if you're getting 50,000 applications for 1000 slots, how do you make that decision? So this is really going back to how it was before."

In a statement Stanford noted that "Performance on standardized tests is an important predictor of academic performance, saying that the renewed requirement will "allow Stanford to consider the fullest array of information in support of each student's application." 

"So I think if you were a parent today and you were worried about, you know, do I have to take this ACT or SAT," said Barbara Harris of Harris College Advising. "It depends. It really depends. Where is your student thinking about applying and what is their major going to be?"

Along with elite colleges, advisor Barbara Harris said potential STEM students may also want to plan for the tests, but she thinks most schools will not move back to test requirements. She said many of them are struggling to get more students in the door.

"Some liberal arts and in some cases some of the less selective colleges that are great colleges are having trouble getting yield," Harris explained. "Having trouble getting students to say yes. Part of it, of course, is compounded by the affordability issue so the last thing they want to do is add more barriers."

"The college education trend overall is fewer people going to college," Raftrey said of higher education. " And that is actually a bigger problem than who gets into MIT."

So the SAT is back, but probably just for a certain corner of the academic world. And Raftrey stresses that highly-selective schools may not always be the right ones.

"It's up to you," he said of college applicants. "You want to go somewhere that you feel comfortable, and you get a good education, and it's a good fit for you."

Stanford said its process will still be a holistic review, the tests will only be part of that, and prospective students get some time to study up. The requirement resumes in the fall of 2025 for admission to the Class of 2030. 

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.