Test-Optional Policies Drive Increase in College Applications

Test-Optional Policies Drive Increase in College Applications
Izzy Hall

Well-known and selective colleges such as the University of Virginia, Harvard and the University of California at Berkeley are seeing a spike in college applications due to their adoption of test-optional admissions for the 2021 admissions cycle. These record increases have led some schools to announce an extension of test-optional admissions into future years.

Initially instituted in response to the difficulty of taking an SAT or ACT exam during the pandemic, test-optional admissions aim at lowering a barrier to entry into top schools by not requiring standardized test scores. Students who may have otherwise not applied to selective, big name schools because they didn’t meet the minimum SAT and ACT requirements are taking advantage of the opportunity to let their high school courses and grades speak for themselves. And without the pressure to study for and sit through standardized tests, students can stay focused on their schoolwork and getting the best grades possible.

Numbers show that this test-optional admission experiment has been successful for many high-profile schools. The University of Virginia had about a 15% increase in admissions over last year, Cornell University received around a third more applications this year, and Harvard had its largest year ever, with a 42% increase in applications.

In response, schools are extending their experimental test-optional policies into future application cycles. Liberal arts schools such as Williams and Amherst have extended their test-optional admissions for two more years, while Ivy League schools like Harvard, Columbia and Cornell will continue accepting test-optional applications through 2022. Schools in the University of California system like UC-Berkeley have transitioned to completely test-blind admissions for in-state students, with the hope of creating a California-specific standardized test in the next five years.

How have test-optional admissions impacted your college applications? Do you feel that test-optional admissions improve your chances of being accepted? As always, let us know in the comments below.

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