Test-Optional Confusion

Cornell University admissions officers will not require that Fall 2021 first year applicants submit SAT or ACT scores as part of their applications. Cornell’s policy change applies only for the Fall 2021 application cycle, so underclassmen in the Class of 2022 and younger may once again be required to submit SAT or ACT scores. Yet, why will Fall 2022 applicants and later once again be required to submit SAT and ACT scores, if there will be no change in the integrity of applicant selections at Cornell and other universities when applicants for Fall 2021 admissions have the option to not submit SAT and ACT scores?

In response to the Spring 2020 SAT and ACT cancellations, due to COVID-19 inspired school shutdowns, university admissions officers around the U.S. have been dropping the test requirements for Fall 2021 first year admissions. Some “test-optional” policy changes are only for the Fall 2021 application cycle, others are for the next three years 2021-2024, as a trial period for possibly permanently dropping the SAT and ACT requirements, while other college admissions officers have simply dropped SAT and ACT test requirements from their application altogether.

As college admissions officers work to account for the extraordinary circumstances of a pandemic by implementing “test-optional” admissions policies, they have raised, intentionally or not, questions about the necessity of standardized tests as a metric for admissions. Without more explanation of the utility of SAT and ACT scores, potential applicants for Fall 2022 and beyond, may develop a bitter taste, recognizing the unfairness that their older colleagues were granted a testing exception and their admissions was still valid, however, they are not afforded the same privilege. Subsequently, students’ and parents’ sentiment about the value of a college degree may further wane, undermining the viability of the modern U.S. university.

Update: Spring 2021, Cornell University will extend test optional policies for Fall 2022 admissions.

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About Jill Yoshikawa, Ed M, Partner of Creative Marbles Consultancy

Jill Yoshikawa, EdM, Harvard ’99, a seasoned, 25 year educator and consultant, is meticulous in helping clients navigate all aspects of the educational experience, no matter the level of complexity. She combines educational theory with experience to advise families, schools and educators. A UCSD and Harvard graduate, as well as a former high school teacher, Jill works tirelessly to help her clients succeed.
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