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Columbia becomes first Ivy League school to end standardized testing for admissions

Columbia University
via ajay_suresh (CC BY 2.0)

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    Columbia University has scrapped its standardized testing requirement for undergraduate applicants, becoming the first Ivy League institution to indefinitely implement the change.

    The university first dropped testing requirements in 2020-21 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. At the time, other Ivy League schools such as Brown, Cornell, Dartmouth, Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania took the same step, but none appear to have made indefinite extensions.

    “Columbia is test-optional for applicants to Columbia College or Columbia Engineering,” the New York City-based university announced on Wednesday. “We have designed our application to afford the greatest possible opportunity and flexibility for students to represent themselves fully and showcase their academic talents, interests and goals.”

    According to the announcement, those who choose to submit their SAT or ACT scores will be subjected to Columbia’s existing testing policies; however, those who do not “will not be at a disadvantage” in the admission process.

    We will continue to evaluate all submitted information within an individualized application review process that considers the unique combination of circumstances shaping each applicant’s journey. The rigor of a student’s curriculum, their academic achievement and their demonstrated intellectual curiosity will remain central to our review.

    Standardized testing in both high school and undergraduate admissions has faced heightened backlash in recent years. 

    Critics believe requiring such tests produces student bodies that are less racially diverse, with white and Asian American applicants allegedly at an advantage.

    Such a state of racial homogeneity has triggered affirmative action policies, which may include the removal of testing requirements, among other measures. This, however, has been met with strong opposition by proponents of meritocracy, as exemplified in the ongoing high-profile cases of Student for Fair Admissions against Harvard University and the University of North Carolina.

    The College of William & Mary, based in Williamsburg, Virginia, also decided to indefinitely continue its test-optional approach.

    The college cited its “highly effective” three-year pilot study as its basis for extending the policy.

    Associate Vice President for Enrollment and Dean of Admission Tim Wolfe said in a statement:

    We want to empower students with more flexibility to demonstrate their talent when applying. Our admission process is comprehensive and multi-faceted. As we found through the pilot, we continue to enroll highly qualified students – with or without a standardized test score – capable of succeeding academically and in contributing to the William & Mary community.

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