Harvard University will not require SAT and ACT scores from undergraduate applicants until 2026, according to an official announcement released Thursday.
Driving the news: The new policy was conceived in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting limited access to standardized testing sites students have faced, according to the university. The university previously waived SAT and ACT scores as an admissions requirement for 2021 and 2022.
- Applicants who manage to take the SAT or ACT can submit their scores, but those unable to do so will not be disadvantaged. Admissions officers will continue to look at students’ extracurricular activities, community involvement, employment and family responsibilities.
- “Applicants will be considered on the basis of what they have presented,” Harvard said in its announcement. “Students are encouraged to send whatever materials they believe would convey their accomplishments in secondary school and their promise for the future.
The big picture: The move follows a growing trend in higher education to make standardized testing optional. While COVID-19 has accelerated the choice for many colleges and universities, some had already made similar changes before the pandemic, according to Newsweek.
- Prior to COVID-19, more than 1,230 colleges and universities had already made SAT and ACT scores optional, as per The New York Times. At present, over 1,800 institutions do not require them for high school seniors applying for fall 2022, advocacy group FairTest said in a recent report.
- FairTest claims that standardized testing enables a narrowed curriculum, outdated methods of instruction and problematic practices such as grade retention and tracking. “Schools that did not require standardized exam score submission for fall 2021 admission — current first-year undergraduates — generally received more applicants, better academically qualified applicants, and more diverse pools of applicants,” Executive Director Bob Schaeffer told The Hill.
- Other critics highlight how standardized testing perpetuates institutional racism. The National Education Association (NEA), for one, says the practice puts certain groups at a disadvantage. “Since their inception almost a century ago, the tests have been instruments of racism and a biased system. Decades of research demonstrate that Black, Latin(o/a/x), and Native students, as well as students from some Asian groups, experience bias from standardized tests administered from early childhood through college,” the NEA says.
- Harvard’s recent decision comes amid a 2014 lawsuit that accuses its affirmative action admissions policy of discriminating against Asian American applicants. Earlier this month, Solicitor General Elizabeth B. Prelogar, who was appointed by President Joe Biden, urged the Supreme Court to reject the case.