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Articles / Preparing for College / Application Testing Requirement Changes

Application Testing Requirement Changes

Dave Berry
Written by Dave Berry | Sept. 3, 2015

Those of you applying to college this fall and winter should be aware of some changes that have taken place recently in the area of testing requirements. This could make your life either simpler or easier, or both.

In a very helpful and informative post on the College Confidential discussion forum, poster "drusba" summarizes many of the changes. If you are targeting Ivy League and other elite colleges this year (and in coming years), you should take heed of these new policies.

In another excellent summary of testing policy changes, Bonnie Goodman, focuses on Harvard, where she notes in her article from last year:

It just became a little easier to be admitted to Harvard University, the university recently changed its admission policy, and they are now making the SAT II subject tests optional. The move puts the Ivy League university apart from the rest of the elite universities. It is no doubt an attempt to level the admissions playing field for under privileged high school seniors who cannot afford to prepare and take the exams. The policy change is immediate and will affect the admissions criteria for the class of 2019. ...

... On Harvard University's admission page, the website now states their new rules regarding the subject tests, which reads; "While we normally require two SAT subject tests, you may apply without them if the cost of taking the tests represents a financial hardship or if you prefer to have your application considered without them."


Our College Confidential forum poster goes well beyond Harvard with a comprehensive description of testing requirements and associated links:

"Those applying for 2016 entry and those who will be applying for years thereafter need to start checking testing requirements of the the colleges to which they may apply because some significant changes are taking place. For example:

"Penn: previously required that you take either SAT plus two subject tests or, as an alternative to both of those, the ACT w/writing. Penn now requires either SAT or ACT and recommends but does not require two subject tests regardless of whether you submit SAT or ACT. The ACT essay is no longer required and will not be used if submitted. The SAT essay will not be used for admission. Effective with the new SAT next year, the optional SAT essay will not be required. See http://www.admissions.upenn.edu/apply/whatpennlooksfor/testing

"Princeton: previously required SAT or ACT w/writing, plus two subject tests. Subject tests are now recommended but not required http://admission.princeton.edu/applyingforadmission/admission-faqs/standardized-tests

"Yale: like Penn previously required SAT plus two subject tests, or, as an alternative to both of those, the ACT w/writing. Now SAT or ACT w/writing is required and two subject tests are recommended but not required regardless of whether you submit SAT or ACT. As to the new SAT for those intending to apply for entry in 2017 or after, the optional writing section will be required. The exisiting SAT or new SAT w/optional essay will be accepted if applying for entry in Fall 2017, but if you are an upcoming high school sophomore who has already taken the exisitng SAT or intends to to take it in the Fall, be aware it will not be accepted for those applying for entry in Fall 2018. See http://admissions.yale.edu/standardized-testing

"Brown and Cornell: effective for entry class of 2017, neither the writing section of the new SAT or the ACT will be required.

"George Washington University: has joined the ranks of test optional colleges. http://undergraduate.admissions.gwu.edu/test-optional-policy

"Colleges have been providing College Board with their decision on whether the optional writing section of the new SAT will be required and College Board has started a list https://collegereadiness.collegeboard.org/sat/register/college-essay-policies."

The optional writing section of the new SAT has caused some angst among test takers. The College Board describes it gently enough:

The new SAT Essay is a lot like writing assignments you’ll see in college. It asks you to read a passage and analyze how the author constructs a persuasive argument. You’ll have fifty minutes to complete your response.

- The SAT Essay is optional, but many colleges require or recommend it.

- If you don’t register for the SAT with Essay at first, you can add it later.

- You can use an SAT fee waiver to take the SAT or the SAT with Essay.

The page then goes on to cover schools from all states, by College Board Code, along with each school's policy regarding the essay, stating "Required," "Recommend," or "Neither Require nor Recommend." So, be sure to check this page to find out what you need to prepare for.

The college process these days (or maybe daze) has become similar to a military operation, or as we used to call it in the Navy, a fleet turn. It involves myriad details and aspects that need to be anticipated well before deadlines, and they end up taking a long time to execute.

Bottom line: Do your research up front, well before deadlines loom. If you need solid advice regarding all the steps needed to submit competitive applications, you can't do much better than the College Confidential discussion forum, as the information above indicates.

Start now!


Be sure to see my other college-related articles on College Confidential.

Written by

Dave Berry

Dave Berry

Dave is co-founder of College Confidential and College Karma Consulting, co-author of America's Elite Colleges: The Smart Buyer's Guide to the Ivy League and Other Top Schools, and has over 30 years of experience helping high schoolers gain admission to Ivy League and other ultra-selective schools. He is an expert in the areas application strategies, stats evaluation, college matching, student profile marketing, essays, personality and temperament assessments and web-based admissions counseling. Dave is a graduate of The Pennsylvania State University and has won national awards for his writing on higher education issues, marketing campaigns and communications programs. He brings this expertise to the discipline of college admissions and his role as a student advocate. His College Quest newspaper page won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award, the Pennsylvania Newspaper Publisher's Association Newspapers in Education Award, the Thomson Newspapers President's Award for Marketing Excellence and the Inland Press Association-University of Kentucky School of Journalism and Mass Communications Inland Innovation Award for the Best New Page. His pioneering journalism program for teenagers, PRO-TEENS, also received national media attention. In addition, Dave won the Newspaper Association of America's Program Excellence Award for Celebrate Diversity!, a program teaching junior high school students about issues of tolerance. His College Knowledge question-and-answer columns have been published in newspapers throughout the United States. Dave loves Corvettes, classical music, computers, and miniature dachshunds. He and his wife Sharon have a daughter, son and four grandchildren.

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