Harvard and Other Elite Schools End Test Optional Applications: What You Need to Know
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Harvard and Other Elite Schools End Test Optional Applications: What You Need to Know

In a move that has rekindled discussions about the role of standardized tests in college admissions, Harvard University has recently announced that it will reintroduce SAT and ACT scores as a requirement for its application process. This decision marks a significant shift from the temporary test-optional policies adopted by many institutions during the pandemic. Understandably, this change has sparked numerous questions among students and parents alike, particularly regarding the implications for future college applicants.

My Clients have been asking a lot of questions regarding Harvard’s recent decision to reintroduce standardized testing as a part of the admissions process. To address these concerns, we have compiled a list of the seven most common questions asked by our clients about Harvard’s new admissions criteria and its potential ripple effects across other universities.

Here are the 7 most common questions: 

  1. What does this mean for you and your student? 
    1. Following Harvard’s example, other institutions are likely to reintroduce standardized testing as part of their admissions criteria. Students should proactively begin preparing for the SAT and ACT to become familiar with the testing process, reducing stress and optimizing their performance. Strategic planning is essential, including setting study schedules, registering for tests, and ensuring timely submission of scores with college applications. This change will significantly impact the upcoming cohort of college applicants, especially seniors applying in the fall of 2024 for the 2025 academic year For our clients, we offer comprehensive support, meticulously planning extracurricular activities and standardized test preparation, monitoring their progress, and advising on securing internships and research positions pertinent to their intended majors. Our goal is to cultivate a more well-rounded profile for each student, enhancing their appeal during the college application season.  
  2. Why are colleges reinstating standardized testing? 
    1. Many colleges, including Harvard and MIT have decided to reinstate the SAT/ACT requirement. Research shows that standardized tests are valuable for assessing academic preparedness across diverse backgrounds. They help identify promising students, especially those from less-resourced high schools, and contribute to a more meritocratic admissions process⁸¹.Harvard Professors Raj Chetty and David J. Deming, along with co-author John N. Friedman, found that standardized tests, when paired with other academic credentials, are crucial for identifying talent. While critics acknowledge biases in these tests, other measures (such as recommendation letters and essays) are even more prone to bias. Considering test scores can enhance socioeconomic diversity and fairness in admissions⁸.
  3. How Universality Benefits Disadvantaged Applicants? 
    1. Standardized tests have universal availability, allowing all students a chance to demonstrate their abilities. Unlike personal essays, which may require expensive coaching, acing the SAT or ACT is accessible to everyone. This universality promotes fairness for disadvantaged applicants⁸.
  4. What’s the Impact on Fall 2025 Applicants? 
    1. Harvard College applicants for fall 2025 will be required to submit standardized test scores. This policy aims to expand opportunities and identify talent across socioeconomic backgrounds⁸
  5. Will other universities follow suit? 
    1. Many universities closely monitor Ivy League decisions. Harvard’s move to end race-conscious admissions may prompt other institutions to reevaluate their policies and consider similar changes¹.
  6. How will legacy admissions be impacted? 
    1. By reinstating testing, Harvard aims to identify promising students across socioeconomic backgrounds. Legacy applicants who have historically enjoyed certain advantages due to applicants’ family ties to the university may face heightened competition. 
  7. Will Non-Ivy schools reevaluate their decisions to be test optional or test blind? 
    1. Harvard’s recent decision to end race-conscious admissions and reinstate standardized testing may influence other institutions. Current test-blind policies prioritize other aspects of an application, such as essays, recommendations, and extracurriculars. However, implementing test-blindness requires careful evaluation of its impact on diversity and academic quality

Harvard’s decision to reintroduce standardized testing as part of its admissions criteria represents a pivotal moment in the evolving landscape of higher education. As students and parents navigate these changes, it is crucial to stay informed and adapt to the new requirements. While standardized tests are now back in the spotlight, it’s important to remember that they are just one piece of a much larger puzzle in the college admissions process. Harvard continues to employ a holistic review that assesses an applicant’s entire profile, including extracurricular activities, personal essays, and more. For those seeking further clarity or guidance, exploring Harvard’s official resources or consulting with an educational advisor can provide additional insights and support. As we move forward, our role is to assist each student in showcasing their unique strengths and capabilities, ensuring they remain well-prepared to achieve their academic and personal goals in this new era of college admissions.

Remember that Harvard’s admissions process takes a whole-student approach, considering not only test scores but also other factors that contribute to your overall profile. If you have any further questions, feel free to explore Harvard’s official FAQ for additional information².

Please feel free to reach out to us directly if you have any questions or concerns. 




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