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As Harvard goes test-optional, U. becomes only Ivy requiring SAT, ACT for applicants to Class of 2025

Nassau Hall
Photo Credit: Jon Ort / The Daily Princetonian

Update: Since the publication of this piece, the University has dropped its requirement for applicants to the Class of 2025 to submit standardized test scores. Read our coverage of the June 18 announcement. 

As of Monday, June 15, the University is the only Ivy League institution requiring applicants to the Class of 2025 to submit their standardized test scores for the SAT or ACT.


In an April 9 statement addressed to future Princeton applicants, Dean of Admission Karen Richardson ’93 confirmed that applicants must submit SAT or ACT scores, but stressed the importance of non-quantitative elements of applications and the “holistic review” of the admissions process. On the matter of SAT Subject Tests, she wrote that although they are always “recommended but not required,” this year in particular “applicants who do not submit subject tests will not be disadvantaged in our process.”

“We … recognize that there will be fewer opportunities for students to sit for various tests this year,” she wrote. “We also know the cancellation of some test dates for the SAT or ACT will result in a limited number of opportunities to sit for these exams.” 

“While applicants will still be expected to submit standardized test results as part of their application, we know you might not have the opportunity to take these tests multiple times. Please know that we do not expect applicants to take these tests multiple times,” Richardson added.

In an email statement to The Daily Princetonian, University Spokesperson Ben Chang wrote, “In light of the challenges presented by COVID-19, the University has been assessing the admissions process for class of 2025 applicants.” 

“We will announce any changes to our policies and process as decisions are made,” he added. 

Universities remain divided on whether to drop the test requirements in light of the widespread shuttering of testing centers and disruption of exam schedules caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. The College Board announced on June 2 that it will be halting the administration of at-home SAT testing and urged schools not to punish students who do not submit scores.  


Many top universities are still requiring standardized tests, including Stanford, Duke, MIT, and Northwestern. But most top liberal arts colleges have dropped the requirement for the 2020–2021 admissions cycle, and the California public college system has suspended the requirement for all first-year applicants until the fall of 2024.

As of June 11, 53 percent of four-year colleges and universities in the United States have made sending SAT or ACT scores optional at least for the upcoming admissions cycle, according to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing. Some colleges, like Seattle’s University of Washington, first suspended the test requirement solely for 2020–2021 applicants, but have now made their test-optional policy permanent.

Within the Ivy League, Cornell was the first university to waive SAT and ACT requirements for the upcoming admissions cycle. 

In the April 22 statement on their undergraduate admissions website, Cornell cited the current “extraordinary circumstance” and clarified that it had no intention of adopting a test-optional admissions policy permanently. 

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“We can’t pre-define in absolute, comprehensive terms what economic or personal disruptions will look like,” the statement read. “We don’t plan to require any students to justify their reasons for not submitting test results, though we will hope to partner with applicants and their advocates throughout the reading period in order to understand each applicant’s circumstances.”

In the past two months, Columbia, Dartmouth, Brown, and the University of Pennsylvania have followed suit in dropping the standardized testing requirement for this year’s applicants. 

On June 12, Yale announced a test-optional policy for Class of 2025 applicants. The announcement cited the disruptions wreaked by the COVID-19 pandemic and asserted that “applicants who are unable to complete an exam or who choose not to report exam scores will not be disadvantaged in the selection process.” 

Three days later, on June 15, Harvard became the seventh Ivy League institution to adopt a temporary test-optional policy. 

“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,” its announcement stated. 

On Tuesday, June 16, a coalition of education and civil rights activists led by the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law called on 30 major universities, including Princeton, to “immediately end their consideration of SAT/ACT scores for student admissions.”

In its letter, the group cited research it claimed shows that “test scores do not meaningfully predict a student’s success in college, and that high standardized test scores are more closely correlated with race, wealth and parental education than other metrics such as high school grades.” According to the group, COVID-19 has “exacerbated the test’s biases and defects.” 

Asked to comment on the letter, Chang wrote, “We received the letter from the Lawyer Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, and appreciate input and ideas on these critical issues.”

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