Number of College Applicants Submitting Test Scores Drops Significantly
Fewer first-year college applicants are providing test scores when compared to before the COVID-19 pandemic.
A new report by the Common App found that 48% of students sent entrance exam scores with their applications as of Nov. 1. Just a year ago in the 2019-20 admissions cycle, nearly 80% of applicants provided test scores.
The drop in provided test scores is largely due to the recent trend of colleges and universities no longer requiring the SAT or ACT for admissions. According to FairTest, more than 1,830 institutions have dropped exam requirements for fall 2023 admissions.
Proponents of the test-optional movement argue that exams such as the SAT and ACT act as a barrier to admission—especially for low income and underrepresented students. Since the pandemic, many schools have joined the movement of test-optional admissions. Experts say that move is good for higher education.
“It expands the applicant pipeline, brings more racial, ethnic and economic diversity to campuses, and raises the aspirations of students residing on the tough side of American inequality,” Sheryll Cashin, a law professor at Georgetown University and contributing editor for POLITICO Magazine, says. “Institutions typically claim in their mission statements to be educating future citizen-leaders who will contribute to society, but standardized tests aren’t good predictors of such behavior. Instead, they reify existing wealth and structural advantages. Schools should be encouraging, rather than excluding, excellent students who are not wealthy and face barriers.”
On the other side, critics of test-optional policies argue that standardized testing is a key component to assessing student success. MIT recently reinstated its SAT/ACT requirement after suspending testing during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“Our research shows standardized tests help us better assess the academic preparedness of all applicants, and also help us identify socioeconomically disadvantaged students who lack access to advanced coursework or other enrichment opportunities that would otherwise demonstrate their readiness for MIT,” Stu Schmill, Dean of Admissions and Student Financial Services at MIT, says in a statement.
Still, for many colleges, dropping the testing requirement has opened the doors for underrepresented minority students, many of whom have applied without providing test scores this past year. According to the Common App, more than 158,000 underrepresented minority students applied to college as of Nov. 1—a 32% increase from pre-pandemic.
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