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Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

Student newspaper serving Tulane University, Uptown New Orleans

The Tulane Hullabaloo

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Elite colleges reinstate standardized testing requirement following new research

Yale University and Brown University are among the latest Ivy League institutions to reinstate standardized testing requirements for incoming classes. (Mylie Bluhm)

In the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, hundreds of colleges and universities across the country opted for test-optional admissions to recognize the hardships that students faced during the pandemic.

But in light of new research from Dartmouth University, several elite institutions are reinstating the standardized testing requirement for incoming classes. 

In January, Dartmouth conducted a study on its student body to measure the efficacy of standardized test scores in predicting student success. The study concluded that SAT and ACT scores are highly predictive of academic achievement at Dartmouth, and test scores are a strong predictor of academic success at Dartmouth for all student demographics.  

The study also found a test-optional policy is a barrier to less-advantaged students and test-optional policies do not increase the proportion of less-advantaged students in the applicant pool. 

Dartmouth announced in February that they will reinstate the standardized testing requirement for the class of 2029. In a testing policy update, Dartmouth said “SAT and ACT scores are a key method by which Dartmouth can identify students who will succeed at Dartmouth.” 

Yale University and Brown University are among the latest Ivy League institutions to reinstate standardized testing requirements for incoming classes.

Recent studies have found that test scores allow admissions officers to predict student success in college more accurately. According to research by Opportunity Insights, a group of Harvard economists, “higher SAT/ACT scores are associated with higher college GPAs but higher high school GPAs are not.” 

Opportunity Insights also noted that students who did not submit test scores received relatively lower college GPAs.

However, Tulane University’s data shows that diversity has increased since eliminating the testing requirement. 

Tulane’s class of 2027 broke records for diversity and academic achievement. For the first time in Tulane history, students of color composed over 40% of the class. First-generation students comprised 10% of the incoming class, up from 7% in the previous year. 

But correlation does not necessarily equal causation.

“We have seen an increase in both ethnic and socio-economic diversity among enrolled students at Tulane since removing standardized testing as an admission requirement, but I would be so wary of correlating the two,” Shawn Abbott, the vice president for enrollment management and dean of admission, said in a statement. “I don’t know that we have enough evidence to argue that simply eliminating that requirement has enabled us to enroll a more diverse incoming class.”

Tulane emphasizes its holistic review of applicants during their admissions process. Admissions officers consider how the combination of an applicant’s attributes and experiences make them valuable to the Tulane community. 

“We maintain the belief that factors that predict academic success are multi-dimensional and cannot be solely reflected in a single academic credential (such as a standardized test score or grade point average),” Valencia Jones, director for diversity initiatives, said.

Jimmy Cross, the assistant director of admissions, said admissions officers review the reason behind each applicant’s extracurriculars and how their interests reflect their passions.

“We view not only what extracurriculars you’re involved in but also your ‘why’ behind what you’re involved in,” Cross said. 

Tulane will be test-optional for the fall 2025 admissions cycle, but will re-evaluate on a year-to-year basis, according to Abbott. 

Freshman Mary Ochiai said standardized tests can be helpful in judging a students objective academic ability, but it should be situated in the context of their whole application. 

“I think we’ve had a lot of success since we’ve already implemented test optional. I feel like that has helped a lot of students in general to focus on other things when applying for college, “ Ochiai said. 

“I don’t think that test scores are the most important thing on the application, but I think they indicate your ability to do well in academics,” Freshman Haley Nachreiner said. “I think that they should require test scores to be submitted, now that there are no COVID restrictions.”

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