MIT announced last year, followed by Dartmouth two weeks ago, and now Yale.

To apply to these prestigious institutions, you are now required to report test scores from the SAT or ACT. I like testing and I am relieved that some highly selective colleges are reinstating test scores after implementing test-optional policies during the pandemic. 

Colleges adopted test-optional policies out of necessity due to test center closures caused by the pandemic, making it challenging for students to take standardized tests.

Unlike colleges with long-established test-optional practices, newly proclaimed test-optional colleges lacked decades of data to determine if test scores truly predict success in college over time. These institutions evaluated applications without a full understanding of how test-optional policies should benefit students.

In recent years, highly selective colleges like MIT, Dartmouth, Yale, and others claimed to be test-optional in theory rather than in practice. While some colleges shared data on the percentage of students applying with and without scores, none disclosed acceptance rates between these two groups. Many colleges used test-optional policies to filter out lower scores, aiming to boost the average test scores of admitted students. For example, Yale’s middle 50% range of test scores for admitted students increased from 1470-1560 in 2019 to 1500-1580 in 2023.

Test-optional policies may give hope to students with lower test scores, but the likelihood of admission without high scores remains low.

In my experience, only a handful of students out of hundreds who applied to these colleges were admitted without test scores. The majority of admitted students not only reported test scores but high ones at that.

Both Dartmouth and Yale stated in their recent announcements that the SAT and ACT are the best predictors of academic success. However, the first class to enroll under their test-optional policies consists of juniors in high school during the pandemic, facing challenges such as limited learning opportunities and disrupted education. Under these circumstances, test scores may indeed be a more reliable predictor of academic success.

At Annapolis College Consulting and the College Sharks, we love what we do and we stay informed daily regarding the subtle nuances of college admissions. If you are interested in our services for your high school student, please reach out to us and book a free 30-minute appointment.

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