The Return of Standardized Testing in College Admissions: A Look at Dartmouth College’s Decision
Dartmouth College Reinstates SAT Requirement
Dartmouth College recently made headlines by becoming the first Ivy League institution to reinstate the SAT requirement for fall 2025 admission. Following the trend set by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, this decision marks a notable shift from the pandemic-era trend of moving towards test-optional or test-blind admissions policies.
Based on a faculty study, Dartmouth concluded that standardized test scores are a significant predictor of a student’s success in Dartmouth’s curriculum. Dartmouth economics professor Bruce Sacerdote supported this decision, emphasizing the importance of test scores in identifying high achieving students from all around the world.
The Role of the SAT and ACT
Admissions tests like the SAT and ACT offer an independent snapshot of college readiness and academic preparation. They provide a check on grade inflation and transcript games, allowing colleges to assess applicants on a standardized scale. Designed to democratize higher education, promote equity, and counter privilege, these tests have long been a staple of the admissions process.
Why Dartmouth Reinstated Standardized Tests
The decision to reinstate standardized testing requirements was influenced by several factors. One of these was the availability of testing during the pandemic. As the situation gradually returns to normal, accessibility to testing facilities is less of a concern. The recommendations of faculty researchers also played a crucial role in this decision.
Lee Coffin, Dartmouth’s dean of admissions and financial aid, discussed the evolution of this decision over the years. He highlighted the role of standardized tests in providing an objective measure of a student’s academic capabilities, irrespective of their socio-economic background.
The Debate over Standardized Testing
The reinstatement of standardized testing at Dartmouth has sparked a debate on the future of these tests in the college admissions process. While some colleges, including MIT and Brown, are considering the benefits and drawbacks of test-optional policies, roughly 2,000 colleges do not require standardized tests.
The end of affirmative action has made the requirement of standardized tests less attractive to schools. Many colleges dropped testing requirements during the COVID-19 pandemic and are anticipating the end of affirmative action. Institutions like Columbia University and the University of California system have committed to permanent or semi-permanent test-optional policies.
The research surrounding the role of standardized testing in the admissions process is not settled. Dartmouth reinstated the testing requirement based on their analysis of their own applicant pool. As more colleges continue to evaluate their admissions process, the question remains: Are standardized tests an accurate, fair, and relevant measure of a student’s potential for success in college? The debate continues.