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As Peer Schools Leave Test-Optional Behind, Is Harvard Next?

After recent decisions from Yale and Dartmouth to bring back standardized testing requirements, admissions experts are divided if Harvard will follow suit.
After recent decisions from Yale and Dartmouth to bring back standardized testing requirements, admissions experts are divided if Harvard will follow suit. By Michael Hu
By Elyse C. Goncalves and Matan H. Josephy, Crimson Staff Writers

After Yale University and Dartmouth College announced the return of standardized testing requirements for applicants, admissions experts are divided on whether Harvard will follow suit.

On Feb. 5, Dartmouth announced that it would bring back its standardized testing requirement for all applicants effective for the class of 2029. Yale followed shortly afterwards, announcing its new “test-flexible” policy, which allows students to submit the SAT, ACT, or all of their IB or AP exam scores. Yale’s policy is set to begin for the class of 2029 as well.

Though Harvard has committed to test-optional policies through the admitted Class of 2030, the University has remained silent on whether students in the Class of 2031 and onwards will be required to submit scores.

A Harvard spokesperson declined to provide additional comment.

Yale and Dartmouth join other top schools like MIT — which reinstated its testing requirement in March of 2022 — and Georgetown, which brought back its testing requirements starting with the class of 2026 after going “test-flexible” for the class of 2025.

Dan Lee, a co-founder of Solomon Admissions Consulting, said that he expects to see most “top schools” follow peer institutions in reinstating testing requirements and that Harvard is “probably at the same time waiting to see what the other Ivy plus schools do.”

“It provides a very useful data point for schools to use to determine whether a student’s going to do well,” Lee said.

David Blobaum, a co-founder of standardized test tutoring firm Summit Prep, said that because of Yale and Dartmouth’s decisions to return to testing requirements, he believes other universities will do the same.

“It’s more likely that more of the top schools will go back, including Harvard,” Blobaum said. “If none of the top schools went back, or if it remained just MIT and Georgetown, then Harvard would only lose applicants if they went back to tests required, and so that would put them at a disadvantage relative to their other peer institutions.”

Yale and Dartmouth’s decisions come after MIT’s return to testing requirements, as well as recent research indicating that SAT scores are a reliable predictor of student success in college and postgraduate outcomes.

A 2023 paper by researchers at Opportunity Insights, a Harvard-affiliated research center, found the SAT is more successful at predicting a student’s college performance than high school GPA. In the wake of that paper, several experts have started calling for a return to standardized testing requirements.

Still, some elite schools — including other Ivy League institutions — have doubled down on their test-optional policies. Last year, Columbia University announced it would stay test-optional and did not specify a timeframe for any future decisions on its testing policy. Cornell University said last month that its testing policy — under which certain Cornell colleges are test-optional and others are test-blind — would remain in place for the upcoming application cycle.

Anna Ivey, former dean of admissions at the University of Chicago’s Law School and founder of Ivey Consulting, said “it’s good” that schools are not uniformly returning to test-required policies.

“It would be a bad sign for higher education if they were all moving in lockstep,” Ivey said. “Keep in mind that no policy is ever permanent. Schools will continue to review their policies as time goes by.”

Ivey said that no expert or admissions officer could yet indicate what Harvard intends to do.

“It’s very possible that the current administrators at Harvard don’t know yet either,” Ivey said.

“Their research will continue to unfold, they will continue to have internal conversations about this. It might look differently a year from now or two years from now,” Ivey said.

But Aaron M. Pallas, a professor of sociology and education at the Columbia Graduate School of Education, Health and Psychology, said he does not predict Harvard will follow Yale and Dartmouth unless more top schools bring back testing.

“Harvard is an institution that is often taken as a reference point, and many institutions seek to emulate it, and thus raise their own standing,” Pallas wrote. “I thus don’t see Harvard looking to emulate other schools. As long as there are other elite institutions that don’t require college admissions tests, Harvard can chart its own path.”

“But if *all* of the other Ivy Plus schools required admissions, that might be enough to move Harvard in that direction,” he wrote.

—Staff writer Elyse C. Goncalves can be reached at elyse.goncalves@thecrimson.com. Follow her on X @e1ysegoncalves or on Threads @elyse.goncalves.

—Staff writer Matan H. Josephy can be reached matan.josephy@thecrimson.com. Follow him on X @matanjosephy.

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