Harvard will not require SAT or ACT scores for admission over the next four years, expanding on policies adopted during the coronavirus pandemic and encouraging a move to permanently abolish standardized test scores for admission even to the country’s most selective schools.
Harvard attributed the move, announced Thursday night, to a pandemic that made it difficult for students to access testing sites.
But the decision has strong symbolic meaning because it shows that Harvard believes it can go through thousands of applications and admit students without the aid of standardized test scores. It also signals that the university – and possibly the country – is one step closer to excluding test results from the admissions process entirely.
“Students who fail to submit standardized test scores will not be prejudiced in the application process,” said William Fitzsimmons, Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, in a statement. He encouraged students to submit “any material they think will reflect their high school achievement and their future prospects.”
Standardized test scores have been a rite of passage for generations of high school students and the bane of their existence. Proponents say they provide a consistent way to assess students from different schools and different parts of the country.
But critics have long argued that they are racially and culturally biased and reflect not the true ability of many students, but their ability to pay for tutoring. An entire industry of exam preparation companies is now teaching students through tests, charging huge fees.
Harvard’s use of test results was also part of a lawsuit in which it was accused of discriminating against Asian American applicants by forcing them to meet higher standards than other applicants. The lawsuit said that overall, Asian American candidates scored higher than others on criteria such as standardized tests, but were penalized with subjective “personal” scores.
A federal court and appellate court upheld the admission process to Harvard, finding that it was not discriminatory, and the Supreme Court is currently considering a hearing.
The current admission cycle is the second during which students can apply to Harvard without standardized test scores. The new policy will expand this action to the next four grades, across grades 2027, 2028, 2029 and 2030, beyond the foreseeable boundaries of the pandemic.
Bob Schaeffer, head of FairTest, an anti-testing group, said the prestige and enormous influence of Harvard made the decision more significant and could be a harbinger of a future in which standardized tests will play a much smaller role in college admissions. or no role at all.
“This proves that elective testing is the new norm for college admissions,” said Mr Schaeffer. “Highly selective schools have shown they can do fair and accurate without test scores.”
According to FairTest, the percentage of schools not requiring tests has grown from about 45 percent before the pandemic to nearly 80 percent today, or 1,815 of the 2,330 schools the organization estimated.
Students have flooded the most competitive colleges with a record number of applications for the 2025 class, forcing eight Ivy League schools to postpone the date they announced their enrollment decision. This is due in part to the fact that many schools have made test scores optional.
Harvard is not alone, and other major educational institutions have gone even further.
In November, the UCLA system made the final decision – after years of debate – to stop using standardized testing. The system, influential with its sheer size and prestigious campuses, including Berkeley and Los Angeles, sought an alternative exam, but ultimately decided that high school grades were the best way to assess students.
The University of Chicago dropped testing in 2018, before the pandemic, and reported admitting a more diverse classroom with no standardized testing requirements.
The vast majority of schools that do not require testing are “optional” rather than “blind,” which means that if students choose to submit a test result, the school will consider it. Test scores are also often used to determine scholarships.
The test announcement came after Harvard College said it had admitted 740 students to its 2026 class of 9406 people who applied for its early response program. Student newspaper The Crimson reported that the 7.9% rate was the second most competitive rate of early enrollment in Harvard history. The next reception will take place in the spring.