Yale Returning to Standardized Testing: What You Need to Know

Rubin Caco

Yale has announced a change in their standardized testing requirement for incoming applicants for the foreseeable future. This policy, coming amongst other schools following a similar trend, sees Yale returning to standardized testing as a requirement for their college applications. This change comes as a result of research into their admissions results, and their new policies contain information students need to know if they plan on applying in the coming years. 

New Testing Requirements

This week, Yale announced that they will require standardized tests with their college applications for students beginning in the fall of 2025 and moving forward. This decision resulted from their research into their test-optional policy, which many schools adopted as a way to become more accessible to students following the 2019 pandemic. The goal of this initial change was to allow for a greater diversity of applicants from underserved and marginalized communities. But, after examining the results, Yale and others have concluded that test-optional policies were not accomplishing what they had hoped they would.

So, given these developments, Yale has decided to revert their test-optional applications and once again require students to submit test scores when. However, Yale is also allowing for "test flexible" options, where students can submit either their SAT, ACT, Advanced Placement (AP), or International Baccalaureate (IB) exam scores with their college application. In contrast, before, only the SAT and ACT scores were allowed.

Why They Are Making This Decision

Since switching to test-optional applications following the pandemic, Yale has seen a marked increase in applicants over the past two years, including students from low-income backgrounds and underrepresented communities. Still, despite the influx of applicants, it did not have the desired outcome of admitting a more diverse range of students. 

In the announcement on their website, Yale stated the reasons why they've come to this decision, one among them being "inviting students to apply without any test scores can, inadvertently, disadvantage students from low-income, first-generation, and rural backgrounds." 

"While evaluating all these applications, our researchers and readers found that when admissions officers reviewed applications with no scores, they placed greater weight on other parts of the application. But this shift frequently worked to the disadvantage of applicants from lower socio-economic backgrounds." 

Yale is not alone in their findings. Dartmouth had made a similar decision earlier this month, stating in an announcement on Feb 5th that "High school grades paired with standardized testing are the most reliable indicators for success in Dartmouth's course of study… and are an especially valuable tool to identify high-achieving applicants from low and middle-income backgrounds… 'Some low-income students appear to withhold test scores even in cases where providing the test score would be a significant positive signal to admissions.'"

In both cases, Yale and Dartmouth discovered that test-optional admissions tended to have the opposite effect as was intended. Students from underrepresented and minority backgrounds tended to omit their test scores, even when those scores would have given them an advantage. 

This type of self-sabotage seems to come from students thinking their scores are not "high" enough when compared to a school's mean test scores, even though schools with holistic review will review the context of a student's test scores and whether or not that student's score reflects well within their local framework. 

How This May Change the Landscape

This news comes as little surprise for those who have been following college admissions trends for a long time. But while it may not come as a shock, this is not small news. 

Yale is not the only school that has reverted its test-optional admissions. As stated before, Dartmouth is also changing its test-optional policy. And this is just the beginning of the trend; top schools reverting their testing policies represents a significant shift in the admissions landscape, and many other schools will soon follow suit. The domino effect of this decision will likely impact all students seeking higher education from this point forward, and students need to adjust their strategies accordingly. 

Nick Strohl, one of our Former Yale Admissions Officers with InGenius Prep, had this to say about the news, "Yale's decision to require standardized test scores for undergraduate admission next year is the latest evidence that top schools are rethinking their test-optional admissions policies, following a similar decision by Dartmouth in recent weeks. It would not be surprising if more top schools follow suit in the coming months. For most students, Yale's decision should not change their approach to college and test prep, as achieving a high SAT or ACT score is helpful at any school that accepts such scores, even those with test-optional policies."

It's long been a tenet at InGenius for the students we counsel that standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT work hand-in-hand with students' application persona—one is not a substitute for the other. Students who have planned ahead without the SAT/ ACT should think again, especially now that the landscape is again trending toward standardized testing. 

About standardized tests, Nick goes on to say, "With regard to Yale's new 'test flexible' policy, which allows students to submit AP or IB scores in lieu of ACT or SAT scores, students should consult with their college counselor about whether this is the right approach for them, as this decision may depend on a student's individual context. In general, however, students should aspire to achieve the best results possible on AP, IB, and ACT or SAT exams in order to be a strong candidate at top schools."

How This May Affect You

The Dean of Admission at Yale has mentioned that standardized tests are a great way to gauge whether or not a student will achieve success at their school. And this sentiment has been expressed at many colleges as well. 

The only time a student should consider test-optional policies is when their test scores do not fall within the average for the colleges they are applying to but still have outstanding academics and extracurriculars to show for, as well as students having a powerful application persona. Because so many top schools are dedicated to evaluating students beyond just their test scores, the application persona is as vital a part of a student's application as their test scores. 

For our students studying and working with InGenius Prep, and for all students looking to apply to college, we recommend making standardized testing a part of your plan and your applications if they are not already. Part of building a solid candidacy is working to make those test scores mesh well with a student's grades, extracurricular activities, and long-term goals to craft a solid application persona that will make an impact on college admission officers. 

For more information on application personas and why they are so important when applying for college, read our blog Application Personas: How Top Colleges Find the Best Students.

How to Prepare Your Application With Standardized Testing

At InGenius Prep, we understand how this news and the need for standardized testing fits into the larger picture of the college admissions landscape. Our primary aim is to provide value to our students, give them the tools, resources, and insider information necessary to achieve their goals and provide them with the edge they need to stand out. 

Our approach to standardized tests mirrors the desires of the top US schools. Our team of Former Admissions Officers from top schools like Yale, Dartmouth, and Princeton have experience choosing and admitting hundreds of students, and they know exactly what the top schools are looking for in their applicants. 

To learn more about our approach to standardized tests and how to bolster our application, schedule a free call with one of our advisors and set up a strategy plan to improve your chances of getting admitted into your dream schools. 

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