What Do Seniors Think of Test-Optional Admissions Policies?

Sophia Mirabal

In lieu of recent and upcoming college decisions, it might be appropriate to reflect on the admission process for the 2023-24 academic year. This is the third year of a widespread test-optional policy adopted by a vast majority of colleges and universities across the country in light of the COVID-19 pandemic. This policy was implemented, at first, in response to the curtailed student access to testing sites during lockdown. Since then, as schools reopen and sites are increasingly available, this change has stuck. Of course, there have been a select few schools who soon retracted this accommodation (e.g. MIT, Georgetown) and maintain a mandatory score report today, having only made the exception for the class of 2025.

In the grand scheme, it seems that test-optional is the new normal for college admissions. An approach that shifts the weight of standardized testing to less-stringent qualities of the college portfolio, such as essays and extracurricular involvement. But this is a heavily debated change. While some college-aspiring students are relieved at the leniency, some are less ecstatic at the alteration. 

Senior Sarianna So is evidently supportive of the switch to test-optional policies, asserting their belief that “a student’s strengths are not determined by standardized scores, but rather their individualized skills and applications.” This seems to be a common take amongst today’s upperclassmen, who feel as though they have more to give than what is revealed by standardized test results and are more confident about submitting applications they might not have otherwise. “I feel like there would be a lot of schools I would not have been able to have a chance of applying to if they were not test-optional” says senior Annamaria Mbuyu, who, when asked if she feels as though such policies have helped her in the application process, responded with a definite yes. 

A student’s strengths are not determined by standardized scores, but rather their individualized skills and applications.

— Sarianna So

Some LHS students, however, observe the change on a case-by-case basis. Like Jennifer Pham, a senior who argues that such policies are almost necessary amongst schools that draw a more competitive pool of applicants. “Isn’t that the point,” she inquired, “to find the best of the best?” 

But it seems that takes which harbor a policy-positive perspective are not uncommon even amongst the most competitive applicants. Take MIT-accepted Kenneth Chap, for example, who experienced a common anxiety about applying to a school with a mandatory standardized score report. The senior admitted he was “really nervous” about admission into some schools on his radar, one of which was the highly competitive Massachusetts Institute of Technology.  Despite his eventual admission, he asserts that he prefers test-optional policies for the sake of self-expression. 

I was able to show more of myself without being restricted to just a number, you know, because it’s not just about a score, it’s about what you did.

— Kenneth Chap

As of now, the future of standardized test scores as a forceful factor in admissions is uncertain. While many schools have implemented such policies, for most, the exception is likely to halt after the class of 2028. But as admissions continue, perhaps this process may as well. Columbia University has recently announced that they have extended their policy indefinitely. If such a shift is possible on the Ivy League scale, who’s to say this is a reform that cannot weigh on schools with all levels of selectivity?