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Dartmouth College set to reinstate SAT and ACT requirements for admissions. Will other schools follow?

Dartmouth says standardized test scores, evaluated with high school grades, are the “most reliable indicators for success”

SHARE Dartmouth College set to reinstate SAT and ACT requirements for admissions. Will other schools follow?
An ACT Assessment test is pictured in Springfield, Ill., on April 1, 2014.

Seth Perlman, Associated Press

Dartmouth College announced it will reinstate its requirement for undergraduate applicants to submit their ACT or SAT scores. The policy will take effect for students of the class of 2029, which means it will affect college applicants beginning in 2025.

Why did Dartmouth and other colleges stop requiring SAT and ACT scores?

According to CBS, Dartmouth has been “test-optional” since 2020, when the COVID-19 pandemic made taking or retaking the ACT and SAT tests difficult. Dartmouth said that the tests and the time it took to prepare for them were “not good uses of a student’s time, money, or emotional energy during an ongoing public health crisis,” per CBS.

Hundreds of colleges and universities across the country took similar action during the pandemic. Yale, several colleges at Cornell University, the University of California and more, went “test-optional” or “test-blind” for undergraduate admissions, per NBC News. Because of the change in requirements, students with lower ACT and SAT scores applied to places they wouldn’t have otherwise. Subsequently, many of these universities and colleges, such as Cornell, saw massive bumps in applications, per NBC.

Why is Dartmouth bringing back the requirement?

In a statement, Dartmouth said they decided to reinstate the testing requirement based on new research conducted on the effects of standardized testing. A study commissioned by the college and conducted by economists and educational sociologists at Dartmouth found that “standardized testing—when assessed using the local norms at a student’s high school—is a valuable element of Dartmouth’s undergraduate application.”

The study found that standardized test scores, in tandem with an evaluation of high school grades, were the “most reliable indicators for success” for prospective students, per the statement. Dartmouth also said that in addition to being good indicators for success, evaluating ACT and SAT scores also helped them identify better-suited students across a wider range of applicants, including those from low or middle classes, first generation students, students from rural areas, and students from under-resourced schools.

Per the statement, Dartmouth said, “contrary to what some have perceived, standardized testing allows us to admit a broader and more diverse range of students.”

Will other colleges reinstate standardized testing requirements?

Dartmouth is not the first college to bring back a requirement to submit standardized test scores. MIT announced in 2022 that it would reinstate the requirement for admissions. Dean of Admissions Stu Schmill said that at MIT student success “is significantly improved by considering standardized testing,” according to CBS News.

Many other top institutions around the country are also evaluating their standardized testing policies. Per Forbes, Princeton University “continues to assess the effects the pandemic has had on teaching and learning in secondary schools in the United States and around the world ... (and) the role standardized testing should play in our admission process.”

Where do Utah colleges and universities stand?

In Utah, colleges and universities have varying policies on standardized test scores.

  • The University of Utah suspended their testing requirements only through 2023. Further information for 2024 has yet to be provided.
  • Utah State University’s admission page says the ACT is “temporarily” not required for admission, though it is needed for certain scholarships and majors.
  • BYU has suspended its requirement through 2026 for “most applicants,” though applicants are encouraged to submit their scores if they “feel it is a good representation of their academic abilities.”
  • The ACT and SAT are optional at Weber State University, with no stated time for when that might end.
  • At Utah Valley University the ACT and SAT are only required for merit based scholarships.
  • In a statement released in 2020, Southern Utah University stated it would be dropping its ACT/SAT requirements “permanently” starting in the 2021-2022 academic year.
  • Utah Tech’s admissions page makes no mention of ACT or SAT requirements.