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    Thursday, April 18, 2024

    Yale will again require standardized test scores for admission

    A woman walks by a Yale sign reflected in the rainwater on the Yale University campus, Aug. 22, 2021, in New Haven, Conn. (AP Photo/Ted Shaffrey, File)

    Yale University will again require students to submit standardized test scores when they apply for admission, school officials said Thursday. The change comes after officials found that the scores were the single best predictor of students’ academic performance and that not considering them could be a disadvantage for those who have already faced daunting challenges.

    The decision - which includes greater flexibility for applicants by allowing more types of tests - is likely to be closely watched not only by students aspiring to highly selective colleges and agonizing over test scores and other metrics, but also by other universities evaluating their own policies. The change will go into effect for first-year and transfer applicants for fall 2025 admission.

    The switch comes after another Ivy League institution, Dartmouth College, announced earlier this month that it would require SAT and ACT scores again.

    When the coronavirus pandemic scrambled testing, Yale and many other colleges dropped requirements that applicants submit standardized tests such as the SAT or ACT. With debate over the value of those tests - including criticism that they provided another barrier to disadvantaged students - many schools continued their test-optional policies even as the public health crisis eased.

    Those years provided a chance for schools to examine the impact of the change, and many have not announced final decisions about what their policies will be. In analyses of the applicant pool, the admitted class, the freshman class, and comparisons of students who were admitted with and without test scores, Yale found that the scores accurately predicted academic performance. Students with higher scores were more likely to have higher grades at Yale.

    Test scores also predicted students’ grades at Yale better than anything else on their applications, school officials said.

    That finding was consistent with a study from a dozen highly selective colleges from Opportunity Insights, in which researchers found that even among otherwise similar students with the same grades in high school, SAT and ACT scores “have substantial predictive power for academic success in college.”

    In recent years, Yale has enrolled more than 1,000 students who did not submit scores. But analyses found that applicants who withheld scores were less likely to be admitted. That was especially true for those from lower-income families and high schools with fewer college-preparatory courses.

    “The entire admissions office staff is keenly aware of the research on the correlations between standardized test scores and household income as well as the persistent gaps by race,” Jeremiah Quinlan, dean of undergraduate admissions and financial aid, said in a statement to the Yale community. “Our experience, however, is that including test scores as one component of a thoughtful whole-person review process can help increase the diversity of the student body rather than decrease it.”

    The findings mirror those of Dartmouth. Sian Leah Beilock, Dartmouth’s president, said earlier this month that the school concluded the numbers could be particularly helpful in identifying students with fewer advantages who otherwise might be overlooked.

    Yale will also allow more types of tests than in the past, adding Advanced Placement and International Baccalaureate scores as options along with the SAT and ACT.

    That decision acknowledges that “the world has changed,” Quinlan said in a statement, with the SAT and ACT less central for students given many schools’ test-optional policies and the entire University of California system’s determination not to consider such scores at all.

    FairTest, which opposes the SAT and ACT, announced that by their count, more than 80 percent of four-year colleges would not require those scores for admission in the fall of 2025. Harry Feder, the organization’s executive director, said in a statement Thursday that test-optional policies “continue to dominate at national universities, state flagships, and selective liberal arts colleges because they typically result in more applicants, academically stronger applicants and more diversity.”

    Yale did gain more applicants since it made the scores optional, from 35,000 to 57,000 - 66 percent more in four years. Those pools also included “record numbers of applications from students who will be the first in their families to attend college, who live in lower-income neighborhoods, and who identify as members of underrepresented minority groups,” Quinlan wrote in a statement.

    But when applications without scores were reviewed, admissions officers put greater weight on other aspects of the application - in ways that inadvertently hurt such students.

    While some students can supplement their applications with extras such as rigorous classes, personalized recommendations and impressive extracurricular activities, others at schools with lesser resources are left with fewer indicators of their performance and potential, Quinlan explained.

    Before the pandemic, requiring testing hadn’t hurt Yale’s ability to increase diversity: From 2013 and 2019, according to the school, the number of underrepresented minority students increased 52 percent, the number of students who were first in their families to attend college increased 65 percent, and the number of freshmen eligible for a Pell Grant increased 95 percent.

    Standardized test scores are imperfect and incomplete, Quinlan wrote, and no exam can perfectly predict a student’s readiness for college. But as one piece in a puzzle, they can highlight strengths, reinforce grades, fill in gaps “and - most importantly - identify students whose performance stands out in their high school context.”

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