Harvard joins other ivy leagues in dropping standardized test requirement



Harvard University has decided to drop its requirements that students submit standardized test scores to apply to be part of the Class of 2025.

The university joins most of the rest of the Ivy League in making SAT and ACT test scores optional this year because of the difficulty of taking and possibly retaking tests amid shutdowns caused by the coronavirus.

Harvard announced in 2020 that standardized tests would be optional for a year as students faced limited access to testing sites. It later extended the policy for another year, and this week said tests won’t be required through 2026 amid continued challenges.

“We understand that the Covid-19 pandemic has created insurmountable challenges in scheduling tests for all students, particularly those from modest economic backgrounds, and we believe this temporary change addresses these challenges,” the college said in a statement on its website.

William Fitzsimmons, the school’s dean of admissions, said students who do not submit test scores will not face any disadvantage in the application process.

“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,” he said in a statement.

Harvard joins a growing number of colleges moving to extend the policy. Out of the eight Ivies, only Princeton is still requiring scores be submitted in the coming application cycle.

Brown, Columbia, Cornell University, Dartmouth College, the University of Pennsylvania and Yale have previously announced they are test-optional for the coming year. The University of California and other schools have done the same.

But in a letter to prospective applicants posted on its website, Princeton said it did not expect students to take the tests more than once, adding that scores would only be a part of the judging.

The College Board had said it would run online SAT testing for students to take at home, but later shelved that plan. May and June test dates for the SAT have been canceled.

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.

The fairness of standardized tests came under renewed scrutiny in 2019 as investigators revealed that, as part of a sprawling college admissions scandal, some wealthy parents had paid to cheat on their children’s exams. Some colleges dropped their requirements in the wake of those revelations.

Harvard said it plans to be “open” for the fall semester, but some or all instruction will continue to be online.

Provost Alan Garber said it was up to the individual schools to decide how to teach undergraduate and graduated students.

Some, like Harvard Law School and Harvard Kennedy School have said the fall term will be online only.

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.