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Harvard, Caltech reverse course and reinstate standardized tests

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Harvard University

and the

California Institute of Technology

said they plan to reinstate the SAT or ACT as requirements for admission, joining a growing group of elite US schools returning to

standardized tests

after a pause prompted by the pandemic.
Harvard said the new policy will apply to students seeking admission in fall 2025, backtracking from an earlier decision to make testing optional for several more years.

Caltech also said Thursday it would require applicants to submit scores when they apply this fall, a year before its moratorium on testing had been set to expire.
The schools announced their decisions amid a broader rethinking about standardized tests and after the recruitment landscape shifted after the Supreme Court ruling last June that schools can’t consider race in admissions. Dartmouth, Yale and Brown all recently said they would bring back testing, arguing it can give admissions officers greater context about whether less-privileged applicants are likely to succeed at the schools.
“Fundamentally, we know that talent is universal, but opportunity is not,” Hopi Hoekstra, dean of Harvard’s Faculty of Arts and Sciences, said in the statement. “With this change, we hope to strengthen our ability to identify these promising students, and to give Harvard the opportunity to support their development as thinkers and leaders who will contribute to shaping our world.”

Testing opponents have long argued that the requirement favors wealthier students who can afford tutoring and preparation courses. Prestigious colleges started to bypass testing when it became impractical at the height of the pandemic as test centers closed.
Since then, however, some of the most elite US schools have grown concerned that not using tests made it harder to identify talented students from less privileged backgrounds. The Massachusetts Institute of Technology restored test requirements two years ago.

A report last year from Harvard professors including economist Raj Chetty found that standardized tests were important in identifying students from under-resourced schools and that SATs and ACTs were “highly predictive” of post-college outcomes.
The Harvard Crimson first reported the school’s decision on testing.
Harvard, the oldest and richest US college, said in a statement that test scores are considered along with other information about an applicant’s experiences, skills, talents, and contributions to their communities. The school also assesses academic qualifications relative to students at applicants’ high schools. Yale said when it reinstated testing that scores can help establish a student’s academic preparedness for college-level work.
Yale,

MIT

and Harvard are among the schools stepping up efforts to recruit students from rural backgrounds who haven’t typically applied to elite colleges. Having a test score lets colleges know more context about an applicant compared to peers from their high school. Harvard said in December that students from rural communities and small towns made up 10% of those accepted to date.
Harvard is bringing back testing requirements while grappling with changes in recruitment. The school said last month that 54,008 students sought admission for next fall’s freshman class. It was the second consecutive year that undergraduate applications declined. They’ve dropped from 61,220 two years ago, a spike that was helped by scrapping the testing requirements.

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