Harvard Drops SAT, ACT Exam Requirement for Applicants Through 2026
Harvard University extended its optional policy for the SAT and ACT exams for applicants through 2026 in an announcement Thursday.
The Ivy League school in Cambridge, Massachusetts, previously announced in 2020 that standardized tests would be optional for a year due to the limited access to testing sites students faced. After, it extended the policy for another year, then again this week through 2026.
The school's dean of admissions, William Fitzsimmons, said students will not have any disadvantages in the application process should they choose to not submit their test scores.
"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," Fitzsimmons said in a statement.
Other schools have also extended their optional test policy, with the University of Wisconsin prolonging theirs through the spring 2025 semester in an announcement last week, with Stanford University doing the same last month through the 2022-23 school year and Miami University recently doing so to last through spring 2023.
Some other colleges said they would permanently remove standardized test requirements amid criticism that the exams hinder minority and low-income students and favor those who are wealthy and white.
In 2019, investigators revealed that some wealthy parents paid to cheat on their kids' exams, renewing scrutiny regarding standardized tests' fairness. Because of this incident, some colleges removed their test requirements.
On Wednesday, the University of Kansas developed a way to admit students without exams so long as they have a high school grade point average of 3.25 or higher.
Chancellor Douglas Girod said in an announcement that the change was first prompted by the pandemic but "people were figuring out quickly that these tests were creating barriers."
The University of California system became the largest higher education institute in the U.S. to abandon test scores this year, as part of a court settlement. Facing a lawsuit from students and groups who said the SAT and ACT are biased against students of color, the system opted to stop considering test scores entirely.
The organizations behind the SAT and ACT have denied allegations that their tests are biased.
In January, the governing board of the 480,000-student California State University system plans to consider a proposal to make test scores optional after a state board recommended it. On Wednesday, the system's chancellor told The Los Angeles Times he would support the move.
The pandemic has accelerated the number of colleges moving to make tests optional — at least on a temporary basis — but even before COVID-19, more were moving in that direction amid concerns about equity and access to college.
Bob Schaeffer, executive director of the FairTest anti-testing group, said that, as more schools drop requirements, they're finding they attract more applicants with better academic qualifications and wider diversity.
By his group's count, three-fifths of all U.S. colleges have committed to make exams optional or to ignore scores entirely for applicants in fall 2023. Schaeffer said he expects that figure to continue growing.
In a statement, he said, "evaluating undergraduate applicants without test scores is here to stay."
The Associated Press contributed to this report.