In March MIT announced that it would reinstate its requirement that applicants submit scores from an SAT or ACT for admission. The reasoning behind the decision: “To predict student success at MIT.”  So, they have resumed merit-based admissions. Currently, no other selective colleges have followed suit, opting to remain either test optional or test blind. So, what is the distinction between these policies?

Applicants can choose to submit their test scores to test optional colleges. The admissions team can then consider them as part of a holistic approach. This process  favors essays, activities and recommendation letters  rather than test scores.  As the keynote speaker at a recent admissions conference admitted, “While I believe in the concept of holistic admission, the addition of those factors made applying to college resemble applying to a private club. Submitted scores are no more important than essays or letters of recommendation.” Highly selective  colleges are now admitting students based on how they help the institution.  

Finally, some colleges are test blind schools. These institutions do not even accept test scores.Their philosophy is that “other aspects of an application provide better information than test scores. . . No matter how well (or poorly) an applicant scored, the test results will have no bearing on a school’s admission decision.” (The exact nature of those other aspects is not specified.) 

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, “In academic year 2020–21, there were approximately 3,567 degree-granting institutions.”  More than ⅔ of  colleges that have stopped requiring SAT/ACT are test optional. In addition, as of April, 84 campuses are test blind. The results of these policies may have far-reaching consequences for the future of higher education.

Laura Maniglia