SAT, ACT testing requirements paused during pandemic are now permanently optional at some colleges

Some of the oldest universities in the nation are axing SAT and ACT testing admissions requirements for incoming undergraduate students – permanently.

Columbia University will be the first in the Ivy League college to go test optional indefinitely, it announced this week, making permanent a change ushered in during COVID. The College of William & Mary made a similar announcement, emphasizing that students can still submit test scores if they want to, but they will no longer be required.

Columbia said the university has "designed our application to afford the greatest possible opportunity and flexibility for students to represent themselves fully and showcase their academic talents, interests and goals."

"Students who choose not to submit test scores will not be at a disadvantage in our process. We will continue to evaluate all submitted information within an individualized application review process that considers the unique combination of circumstances shaping each applicant's journey," its announcement continued.

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In a similar vein, the College of William & Mary said they made the decision after three-year pilot program they called "highly effective." They came to the decision after a "review of data, consideration of evolving trends in college admission and consultation with a faculty advisory committee."

The move comes after a slew of colleges went test-optional, allowing students to skip submitting SAT or ACT scores during the pandemic. Some universities had begun to dial back on those policies, while the announcements from Columbia and William & Mary take the opposite approach. The announcements coincide with increased scrutiny of the College Board.

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Why did colleges go test-optional during COVID?

Many colleges were shifting away from requiring ACT or SAT scores long before COVID, arguing in part that exam scores can contribute to inequities in admissions. Given obstacles to taking the tests as the virus spread, the trend accelerated over the last few years.

During the pandemic, about 1,600 colleges and universities axed testing requirements from admissions applications. According to the advocacy group FairTest, more than 1,800 four-year colleges and universities are now test optional.

The shift led to a spike in applications, especially among the nation's most-selective universities that adopted a test-optional stance.

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Contact Kayla Jimenez at Follow her on Twitter at @kaylajjimenez.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: SAT test-optional policies implemented during COVID become permanent