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An upbeat website for a downtown school

the Southerner Online

An upbeat website for a downtown school

the Southerner Online

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Renewal of testing requirements at elite universities stirs controversy

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Following the COVID-19 pandemic’s effect on testing dates, many colleges have reinstated SAT and ACT testing requirements, including elite private universities, for the 2024-25 undergraduate admissions cycle.

Several private elite universities around the country, including Brown University, Dartmouth College and Yale University, have reinstated standardized testing requirements for the 2024-25 undergraduate application cycle, spurring community opinion.

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic, SAT and ACT testing dates were canceled worldwide, so many top colleges turned to test-optional policies for the class of 2021, meaning they did not require applicants to send in SAT or ACT scores. However, the pandemic’s effects on testing dates have now diminished, causing colleges to reinstate former standardized testing requirements.

Midtown Career and College Center advisor Mira Ratchev does not believe the decisions changed a lot of top college admissions office criteria.

“Even during the test-optional admissions period over the pandemic, I don’t think that the profile of admitted students to those really elite schools changed all that much,” Ratchev said. “I do still think that they are looking for students who tend to have higher test scores.”

The decisions of Brown, Dartmouth and Yale to require standardized testing follow a report from Opportunity Insights, a research group based at Harvard University, finding high standardized testing scores correlate with academic success, particularly at highly selective institutions.

Ratchev understands the subsequent decisions of universities to reinstate test-required policies after this report.

“It is sometimes hard to gauge a student’s academic potential or readiness for college because the rigor of what classes are available just varies so much between schools,” Ratchev said. “So, I do think that the [SAT and ACT] are good standardized predictors, but I don’t think that it’s necessarily a one-size-fits-all tool. I’ve definitely come across students who are incredibly intelligent but are just not strong testers or don’t have access to testing resources.”

Junior Zachary Chan feels that the decision to reinstate testing requirements makes admissions fairer and more equitable.

“I feel the decision will help distinguish students who can now rely on their standardized test scores to increase their competitiveness with students who are academically gifted but don’t have the available time to participate in extracurricular activities,” Chan said. “Overall, I think naturally gifted students with limited access to these [testing] resources benefit more than they would be without those scores.”

Senior Lawson Scott disagrees with the report’s finding that  SAT and ACT scores are more predictive of college success than a student’s high school GPA.

“Even though the [SAT and ACT] are all graded the same, so there is no bias given, the [SAT and ACT] still take less than a day while a high school course can take eight months,” Scott said. “Most people have different strategies to get through school which aren’t represented in standardized testing.”

The overwhelming majority of colleges nationwide still hold test-free or test-optional policies and have not signaled any change will be made to these policies for the 2024-25 admissions cycle. Except for the Georgia Institute of Technology (GT), the University of Georgia (UGA) and Georgia College and State University (GCSU), who will continue requiring test scores, the test-optional policies will remain for colleges within the University System of Georgia (USG) in the 2024-25 admissions cycle.

Ratchev likes the decision of most Georgia public universities to remain test-optional because she believes it assists next year’s seniors.

“It’s just easier to apply and get into a college if you don’t have to worry about the SAT or ACT, especially because [are] were so many [students] who weren’t at Midtown last year who couldn’t take advantage of the school day SAT and ACT,” Ratchev said. “I think it also makes sense for those three top Georgia schools [GT, UGA and GCSU] because they just receive so many applications that having that element of test scores is needed.”

While Scott believes test-required policies are fair, he still feels that the test-optional component highlighted his personal qualities during the application process this past fall.

“The test-optional policies focus my application more on my resumé and school activities,” Scott said. “If you have to submit test scores, [most] of your full application is just numbers while only a little bit is about you. You can take a test 30 times and learn nothing, but if you do something hands-on 30 times, you can do that action with your eyes closed.”

Chan believes that colleges’ standardized testing policies will not affect where he applies.

“I don’t think [the policies] will make enough of a difference overall to warrant not applying to one school or applying to another,” Chan said. “I’ve tried to participate in as many extracurriculars as possible, so I think that at least for me, test-optional or test-required [policies] wouldn’t make much of a difference when I apply to college.”

Ratchev feels that any student with low test scores who hopes to get admitted to a top university should improve other parts of their application.

“If I come across a student who was like, ‘I really don’t like testing but want to go to Brown,’ I would just recommend that they strengthen their application in every other way they can,” Ratchev said. “[The student should] take rigorous classes, have a really strong essay, strong extracurriculars [and] strong letters of recommendation.”

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About the Contributor
Shalin Bhatia
Shalin Bhatia, Editor in Chief
Shalin is in his fourth year of the Journalism pathway and is in his third year on the Southerner staff, serving as the Editor in Chief over the News Section. Besides writing stories, Shalin is a member of the Speech and Debate team and plays for the tennis team. He is very excited to help lead the staff this year.

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