On Jan. 19, the College Board announced that it will eliminate the optional essay section from the SAT as well as the SAT subject tests. These moves come after the COVID-19 pandemic rendered traditional standardized test-taking difficult or inaccessible to many high school students.
While the lack of testing opportunities has been challenging, University Spokesperson Ayana Gibbs explained that the application review process at Princeton will remain relatively unchanged.
“The College Board’s decisions have little to no impact on our application review process,“ Gibbs wrote in a statement to The Daily Princetonian. She cited the past removal of the SAT Subject Tests and SAT/ACT optional writing test requirements as well as the institution of the graded paper requirement in 2018 as examples of “equity and accessibility” efforts.
“[W]e do still see standardized tests as a helpful tool when evaluated in context and in conjunction with other factors in an application,” Gibbs added. “In this year, we are, as always, considering students' performance in the classroom, the rigor of the curriculum they have pursued, and what their recommenders have to say about them. It is always our goal to ensure that the students we admit can thrive here academically.”
Along with the removal of standardized test requirements and Early Action admission, the University decided to transition to remote alumni interviews in order to mitigate the potential spread of COVID-19 and conform to public health guidelines. A new writing supplement was also incorporated into the application.
Gibbs also told the ‘Prince’ that the University received over 37,000 applications this application season, a 15 percent increase over last year’s batch of applications. Admissions decisions will be released on April 6 at 7 p.m. EST.
Prospective students have received the news of the College Board’s decision with hopeful enthusiasm. Zahra Nasir, an applicant from Indiana, noted that the College Board’s announcement and the University’s COVID-19-related admissions changes imbue her and other students with a mixture of relief and renewed confidence in the highly competitive admissions process at the University, which last year accepted 5.5 percent of the applicants for the Class of 2024.
“Because I’ve applied to Princeton during this atypical admissions cycle, I didn’t feel pressured to submit more test scores in addition to my SAT score,” Nasir said. “As Princeton evaluates their applicants, I think there will be a wider appraisal of just how disruptive this year has been for students applying to colleges. I believe these changes are for the best because it emphasizes the holistic nature of the admissions process.”
Nasir also voiced concerns about the potential downfalls of the College Board’s decision to remove subject tests and the optional essay from its standardized testing arsenal.
“I know some students use subject tests to compensate for weaknesses in other places or perhaps to show their strengths in certain areas,” Nasir said. “This is especially true for many international students who struggle with the Evidence Based Reading and Writing section on the SAT. I suppose for many students this means less standardized testing and ‘numbers’ on their application.”
As the state of the COVID-19 pandemic fluctuates amid a nationwide effort to distribute and administer vaccines, the University is working to accommodate applicants from low-income backgrounds and those who have encountered significant challenges during the course of this tumultuous college admissions year.
“Princeton remains committed to attracting and supporting talented students from throughout society, including students from groups that have been underrepresented in higher education and denied the opportunities they need to flourish,” Gibbs wrote.