First Ivy League school drops SAT/ACT requirement because of pandemic

The school says the coronavirus and the ability to administer the test to high school seniors are reasons for the policy change.

Cornell University is temporarily dropping its standardized testing requirement for the upcoming admissions cycle.

Cornell University is the first Ivy League institution set to drop standardized testing requirements for the next class of freshmen. 

According to a report by The Wall Street Journal, the university will temporarily exempt new applicants from submitting SAT and ACT scores as part of the admissions process because of the coronavirus pandemic. 

On the Cornell admissions website, the university acknowledged that the coronavirus has led to testing cancelations which have made it difficult for prospective students to take the tests as traditionally required.

“The SARS-COV-2 pandemic emergency has led to many SAT and ACT administration cancelations,” the statement read. “Due to this extraordinary circumstance, students seeking to enroll at Cornell University beginning in August 2021 can submit their applications without including the results from ACT or SAT exams.”

The university also noted that the change in policy is only temporary. 

[RELATED: College ditches SAT/ACT requirement to ‘increase the diversity’ of students]

“Cornell overall is not adopting a 'test-optional admission' policy permanently,” the statement continued. “As is true in all 'test optional' admissions practices, we anticipate that many students who will have had reasonable and uninterrupted opportunities to take the ACT and/or SAT during 2020 administrations will continue to submit results, and those results will continue to demonstrate preparation for college-level work.”

“This is a one-year relief for students who had been assembling a distinguished record of achievement until the COVID-19 disruption started in their country, region, or school, and who continue to seek the higher education opportunities toward which their efforts had been directed.”

However, while submitting test scores is optional for the near future, Cornell is maintaining that submitting scores may still matter in the admissions process. The school said the results will serve as a “meaningful differentiator” for students who live in areas where testing will be offered and for students who have not faced economic hardship from the pandemic. 

“We can’t pre-define in absolute, comprehensive terms what economic or personal disruptions will look like, nor will we require any students to justify their reasons for not submitting test results,” the university said. “Instead, we expect to partner with applicants and their advocates throughout the reading period, aiming to arrive at a reasonable and well-informed understanding of each applicant’s circumstances.”

[RELATED: Colleges nationwide suspend ACT/SAT admissions requirements]

Additionally, Cornell says students who cannot take the SAT or ACT may have other portions of their applications scrutinized and may be subject to further review during the application process. 

“Applicants with no test results might more often be asked after review has begun for additional evidence of continuing preparation, including grade reports from current senior year enrollment when that can be made available in time for Cornell admission review.”

Campus Reform previously reported on schools that had also dropped the requirements, but Cornell is the first Ivy League school to fully suspend the requirement. The Wall Street Journal noted that other Ivy League institutions such as Brown University and Princeton University only stated that they do not expect applicants to take standardized tests multiple times. 

The changes in standardized testing policies come as the College Board is considering online options. Cornell seemed to dismiss online testing as a possible solution. 

“Cornell is unable to analyze at this time proposals from ACT and the College Board for offering expanded at-home and other online testing during 2020,” the school said before adding that online testing “can’t yet be validated as an indicator of college success.” 

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