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Columbia University Makes a Big Move on the SATs

Ivy League school announces it's keeping its test-optional policy without time limits for admissions
By Jenn Gidman,  Newser Staff
Posted Mar 4, 2023 10:00 AM CST
This Ivy League Just Made a Big Move on SATs
Stock photo.   (Getty Images/michaelquirk)

During the peak of the pandemic, many schools around the nation, including Ivy Leagues, suspended their requirements that applicants submit SAT and ACT scores to be considered for admission. Now, one Ivy League might be making that move permanent. NBC New York reports that Manhattan's Columbia University is now fully test-optional, without time limits—meaning students who choose not to submit test scores to the school's undergraduate college and School of Engineering won't be at a disadvantage. "The holistic and contextual application review process ... is rooted in the belief that students are dynamic, multifaceted individuals who cannot be defined by any single factor," the school said in a statement, calling that review "purposeful and nuanced—respecting varied backgrounds, voices, and experiences."

What a student's admission will be based on, per the statement: "the rigor of a student's curriculum, their academic achievement, and their demonstrated intellectual curiosity." The Columbia Daily Spectator student newspaper first reported on the news Wednesday. Scores had previously been optional, due to the pandemic, but with a deadline that extended only for enrollments through the fall 2024 semester. Other Ivy Leagues, including Harvard, Princeton, and Yale, remain test-optional, but deadlines remain for those policies. Per the FairTest group, there are around 1,800 schools nationwide that are test-optional, though most of their policies are also temporary.

Columbia's move may prove to be a groundbreaking one. The Washington Post reports that on Thursday, the day after Columbia made its announcement, the College of William and Mary followed suit, after a three-year study there found little difference in academic performance between students who applied with SAT or ACT scores and those who didn't. The Post notes that some students remain conflicted on whether to withhold scores, still fearing it will hurt their chances at admission, or for scholarships. The College Board, which manages the SATs, and the ACT, which runs its self-named exams, both say the tests are helpful gauges for admissions officers. "Scores from college admissions tests like the ACT remain the only measure of academic readiness that is standardized and comparable across districts and states," ACT CEO Janet Godwin says in a statement. (More SAT stories.)

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