Progressive Labor Party Organizes Solidarity March With Harvard Yard Encampment


Encampment Protesters Briefly Raise 3 Palestinian Flags Over Harvard Yard


Mayor Wu Cancels Harvard Event After Affinity Groups Withdraw Over Emerson Encampment Police Response


Harvard Yard To Remain Indefinitely Closed Amid Encampment


HUPD Chief Says Harvard Yard Encampment is Peaceful, Defends Students’ Right to Protest

‘Out of the Blue’: Students and Counselors Share Mixed Reactions to Harvard’s Return to Test-Required Policy

The Harvard College Admissions Office is located at 86 Brattle Street. After Harvard's sudden reversal on test-optional policies earlier this month, students, experts, and counselors said applicants and advisers will need to quickly adjust to the new policy.
The Harvard College Admissions Office is located at 86 Brattle Street. After Harvard's sudden reversal on test-optional policies earlier this month, students, experts, and counselors said applicants and advisers will need to quickly adjust to the new policy. By Marina Qu
By Elyse C. Goncalves and Matan H. Josephy, Crimson Staff Writers

Following Harvard’s decision earlier this month to reinstate standardized testing requirements for the Class of 2029, students, experts, and counselors said applicants and their advisers will need to make quick adjustments for the new policy.

The College’s decision was a reversal on a previous commitment to stay test-optional through the admitted Class of 2030 — set to apply in the fall of 2026. The move drew mixed reactions from students, experts, and college counselors: while some supported the policy decision, others said it may pose new roadblocks for applicants.

In an emailed statement, Peter S. Arcidiacono, a professor of economics at Duke University and an expert witness for Students for Fair Admissions — the anti-affirmative action group that sued Harvard over its use of race-conscious admissions — praised the College’s return to testing.

“Test scores provide valuable information on academic preparation, particularly for math,” Arcidiacono wrote.

Arcidicacono also pointed to the potential benefits for socioeconomic diversity of reinstating mandated reporting of test scores, saying that the choice Harvard and peer schools — including Dartmouth, Yale, and Brown — made was “based on data showing that test-optional policies were more helpful for the rich than the poor.”

In its announcement, Harvard cited research from the Harvard-affiliated initiative Opportunity Insights showing that standardized tests such as the SAT “emerged as an important tool to identify promising students at less-well-resourced high schools,” according to the Harvard Gazette, a University-run publication.

In some states, students are already required by law to take exams like the SAT and ACT, which may be used to fulfill graduation requirements.

At Great Hearts Academies in Arizona, where the ACT is used to fulfill state requirements, students often expect to submit scores regardless of testing policy, according to the schools’ director of college counseling, Roslyn D. Fletcher.

“Many of our students do test with the expectation that they’ll be submitting scores, so I don’t think this will be a huge change for most of our students,” Fletcher said. “For students who do test well, I think that this is an opportunity for them to demonstrate to a college that they are highly qualified in terms of admission.”

Fletcher said that this change did not come as a surprise to many.

“I think many college counselors anticipated us being back to utilizing test scores, and so I think it’s a anticipated return,” she added.

David Blobaum, director of outreach for the National Test Prep Association, also said the decision was expected and commended the University for the move.

“The hardest thing to do is to admit that you’re wrong,” Blobaum said. “The path of least resistance was let the moratorium on test-optional admissions run out, and then switch sides.”

“I genuinely think that it was courageous for them to end it early, when they could have just gone back to test-required fully functionally, and just never admitted that to the public,” he added.

But Jodie T. Chen, a junior at Buckingham Browne and Nichols in Cambridge, said she did not know about Harvard’s decision until The Crimson reached out to her for an interview.

Migyu O. Kim, a junior at Phillips Academy Andover, said, “I was pretty shocked because it was just very sudden.”

For students applying to the Class of 2029, the decision may mean last-minute changes to their plans regarding standardized testing for Harvard and other peer schools.

“I think that if someone hadn’t prepared for the standardized testing or wasn’t planning to take it, it’d definitely be something that was very stressful, because it was just so out of the blue,” Kim said.

David P. Martinez, a junior at Haverhill High School in Haverhill, Mass., plans on applying to Harvard. Though he took the SAT once before, Martinez said he plans to retake it in May — and take the ACT — to increase his score.

Though he was planning on taking the tests regardless, Martinez said he now must place more weight on improving his SAT score.

“If test optional was still going to be the game plan, I wouldn’t prioritize retaking the SAT,” Martinez said. “But given that the policy is now that tests are required, I certainly am gonna retake it to gain a better footing, hopefully.”

Still, to other students — like prospective applicant Michael L. Jiang, a junior at BB&N — Harvard’s decision was unimpactful. Jiang said he had taken the SAT already and had planned to submit his scores regardless of testing policy.

“It wasn’t too much of a stretch because I already aimed to send in my test scores,” Jiang said. “But for some people, I see how that might be a little controversial.”

Jiang has two college counselors – one at his high school and a private counselor – who both advised him to increase his score and submit it.

As prospective Harvard applicants navigate the new policy changes, their advisers have also needed to adjust.

Jason J. Holly, a high school counselor at the Hong Kong International School, said that under test-optional policies, he and his colleagues recommend that students have a standardized test score above the median at schools they apply to. But with test-required policies in place at Harvard, Holly said they may begin warning students against applying if they do not have a “competitive test score.”

“In recent years, a student with a very strong academic record might still be competitive without a commensurately strong test score — because they could choose not to submit,” Holly wrote in an emailed statement. “But that’s no longer the case for this handful of universities that are reinstating their testing requirement.”

Some admissions experts have also pointed to more fundamental pieces of the decision beyond the immediate impact on applicants and their advising systems.

Anna Ivey, a former dean of admissions at the University of Chicago Law School and founder of Ivey Admissions Consulting, criticized the top-down nature through which such a decision may be made.

“These decisions around testing requirements typically come from the faculty, and to my knowledge, that was also the case here,” Ivey said. “And they are somewhat removed from some of the realities that applicants are facing.”

A College spokesperson declined to comment.

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

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

Want to keep up with breaking news? Subscribe to our email newsletter.

CollegeCollege AdministrationFASAdmissionsAdmissions NewsFront Middle FeatureFeatured Articles