The Evolving Landscape of College Admissions: The SAT and ACT Tests in Flux

A photo illustrating International College Counselors explains the recent move by some universities to reinstate SAT and ACT standardized test requirements.

In recent years, the landscape of college admissions has been undergoing significant changes, with perhaps none more prominent than the shifting roles of the SAT and ACT. These standardized tests, long considered crucial components of the college application process, are now facing scrutiny and reevaluation from institutions, students, and policymakers alike.

Historically, the SAT and ACT have been used by colleges and universities in the U.S. as a measure of academic aptitude and potential. However, in recent years, a growing number of colleges and universities moved away from requiring these tests as part of the admissions process. A variety of factors fueled this trend, including concerns about the fairness and equity of standardized testing, COVID restrictions, and a belief that the tests were not necessarily the best predictors of student’s potential for success in college.

In response to these concerns, more and more colleges and universities adopted test-optional or test-blind admissions policies. Test-optional policies allow students to choose whether to submit their SAT or ACT scores as part of their application, while test-blind policies do not consider these scores at all in the admissions process. These policies have been embraced by a diverse range of institutions, from small liberal arts colleges to large research universities.

In addition to these institutional changes, the SAT made changes to their tests in recent years, including removing certain sections, making the tests shorter, and offering them in digital formats.

The SAT and ACT are likely to remain a part of the college admissions process for the foreseeable future, and their influence appears to be growing again as some colleges and universities recently returned to requiring SAT/ACT test scores, including Dartmouth, Yale, and MIT.

Research by a small group of Dartmouth’s professors concluded that standardized test scores are a more reliable predictor of academic success at Dartmouth than high school grades, college admissions essays, and teacher recommendations. Other higher-education research reached the same conclusion. This comes with little surprise. Thanks to grade inflation, the proliferation of As in high schools has diminished their significance in the college admissions process. Additionally, both Yale and Dartmouth found that hundreds of applicants from lower socioeconomic backgrounds who didn’t submit test scores would have been accepted had they submitted.

Said Lee Coffin, Dartmouth’s dean of admissions and financial aid, “Information is valuable, and why would you leave any information on the table? We’re not saying in this reactivation that your test score defines you. We’re not saying we no longer value the whole person or the integrity of a transcript and curriculum; those remain the heart of our process. But having scores as part of that assessment is meaningful to us.”

We encourage students to study for their standardized tests as admissions requirements continue to change. You want your student to be prepared from one year to the next. 

International College Counselors is ready to provide expert guidance and support tailored to your family’s unique journey. Increase your student’s chances of securing a spot at their top-choice institutions! Contact us at International College Counselors or call 1-954-414-9986 for personalized assistance to navigate the complexities of the college admission process.

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