Harvard Extends Big Pandemic Change for 4 More Years

Candidates won't be required to send in their SAT, ACT scores until at least 2026
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 17, 2021 1:24 PM CST
Harvard Dumps SAT, ACT Scores Till 2026
Harvard campus.   (Getty Images/rabbit75_ist)

It was a change brought about by the pandemic, and one that Harvard University now plans on continuing for at least four more years—and maybe even for good. The New York Times reports the Ivy League school has decided to go the test-optional route, not requiring SAT and ACT scores from prospective students through at least 2026. Students who score well and want to submit their scores can still do so, but the school says it won't penalize those who don't. Instead, head of admissions William Fitzsimmons says candidates should send "whatever materials they believe would convey their accomplishments in secondary school and their promise for the future."

Harvard notes it made the move because the pandemic has restricted access to many testing sites. Many colleges have similarly moved into "test optional" mode over the past two admissions cycles, while a few have gone even further, into "test blind" territory—meaning they won't look at a student's scores at all. The Washington Post reports some schools, including the University of Chicago and Indiana University, have already made the test-optional process permanent; others, like the University of California, are now test-blind for the long haul. Such decisions please detractors of standardized testing, who say the tests are racially and culturally biased, and that high SAT scores are the realm of the privileged, as they can afford tutors to help boost those numbers.

The Post notes many schools are reluctant to dump this admissions gauge altogether, with "perfect scores ... [retaining] their power and allure." But critics of standardized testing are hoping Harvard's move is just the start of a "new normal" and will drive other schools to follow suit. "Highly selective schools have shown that they can do fair and accurate admissions without test scores," the head of anti-testing group FairTest tells the Times. FairTest notes that before the pandemic, about 45% of schools didn't require such test scores. That number is now at 80%, though it's unclear how many have instituted these policies for the pandemic only. (More Harvard stories.)

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