US Colleges go Test Blind

Global Ed

Standardised tests in the US are undergoing a shift this pandemic.

From just two colleges that adopted test-blind admissions in 2014 to over 1600 colleges doing the same (becoming either test-blind or test-optional admission policies), the global pandemic has had a direct impact on college admissions in the US. In simple terms what this means is that colleges and universities adopting the test-blind policies would not consider ACT/SAT scores, even if submitted.

While the debate about the fairness of these tests has been going on for a while, the decision to drop them as part of the admission process was taken in 2020 in light of the global pandemic. A large number of colleges in the US decided to extend this policy beyond 2022 admissions, while some are even considering dropping the tests permanently.  This comes as great news for students across the globe, as it makes the admission process a bit easier.

Which led to the introduction of test blind admissions?

As stated earlier, this policy had been in the works for a while. The ACT/SAT standardised test requirement for admissions in US universities had been under the scanner of various higher education policies and advocacy groups, especially as the universities also used the ACT/SAT scores of students to determine its (college/university) rankings in the US.

With 2020 gripped by the global pandemic, countless tests were cancelled as most testing centres were closed across the globe. Universities at this point started to take into consideration the plight of students who had little or no access to testing opportunities and who would therefore have missed out on college admissions in the US had the ACT/SAT scores been mandatory for admissions.

In the early March of 2020, only 54% of SAT centres were open for testing, while the remaining were closed due to covid-related health and safety measures. Tests were cancelled in Spring, then Summer and even for the Fall. Similar setbacks were reported for the ACT as well.

Opting out of ACT/SAT in admissions also addresses the decade-long concerns that standardised test scores seemed to favour students from better financial backgrounds and made for an unequal playing field for other qualified students who came from not-so affluent backgrounds.

It was hard, for instance, to differentiate the test scores received by students who had little access to test-prep services from those who did have the resources to prep well. With the test-blind admissions policy, students of Hispanic, non-native English speakers, or even low-income groups, and/or students with learning disabilities would have better opportunities to get admissions of their choice.

The ACT/SAT backstory

It was in the late 1800s that elite universities in the US introduced their own exam systems to assess the potential of students, which was later developed into a common test used by leading universities, i.e., The College Entrance Examination Board where students were tested in nine areas that included Mathematics, History, Languages, and Physical Sciences. This, later on, came about to be known as the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT)

Later in 1959, the American College Testing Exam (ACT) was first designed for the University of Iowa by professor of education E.F. Lindquist. The test attempted to access students better as compared to the SAT.

ACT and SAT then went on to become the two most commonly used intelligence tests where students were measured on a broad spectrum of abilities (i.e., general reasoning, numerical operations, perceptual speed, verbal comprehension, or mechanical knowledge).

It's good news for students

So, yes, Test-blind admission policies in the US colleges/universities have become great news for international students, as much as it is for American students.

Academics, extracurricular activities, and community involvement would be considered for undergraduate admission. This means that students will be assessed holistically, from grades to his/her extracurricular participation, creativity, problem-solving, and self-discipline among others.
To start with, here’s the list of colleges/universities in the US that are going Test-blind in its admission:

Name of University Location Test-blind/ Test-optional Status
Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) Cambridge Test-blind (suspended) for 2021-2022 cycle
Stanford University Stanford Test-optional for 2021-2022 cycle
Harvard University Cambridge Test-optional for 2021-2022 cycle
California Institute of Technology (Caltech) Pasadena Test-blind till fall 2023 cycle
University of Chicago Chicago Test-optional permanently
Princeton University Princeton Test-optional for 2021-2022 cycle
University of Pennsylvania Philadelphia Test-optional for 2021-2022 cycle
Yale University New Haven Test-optional for 2021-2022 cycle
Cornell University Ithaca Test-blind for 2021-2022 cycle
Columbia University NY City Test-optional for 2021-2022 cycle
University of Michigan-Ann Arbor Ann Arbor Test-optional for 2021-2022 cycle
Johns Hopkins University Baltimore Test-optional for 2021-2022 cycle
Northwestern University Evanston Test-optional for 2021-2022 cycle
University of California, Berkeley (UCB) Berkeley Test-blind for 2021-2022 cycle
New York University (NYU) NY City Test-optional for 2021-2022 cycle
University of California, Los Angeles (UCLA) Los Angeles Test-blind till fall 2024 cycle
Duke University Durham Test-optional for 2021-2022 cycle
Carnegie Mellon University Pittsburgh Test-optional for 2021-2022 cycle
Brown University Providence Test-optional for 2021-2022 cycle
University of Wisconsin-Madison Madison Test-optional till summer 2023 cycle
University of Texas at Austin Austin Test-optional till fall 2022 cycle
University of Washington Seattle Test-optional beyond fall 2020
University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign Champaign Test-optional till 2024 cycle
Rice University Houston Test-optional for 2021-2022 cycle
University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill Chapel Hill Test-optional till fall 2022 cycle
Pennsylvania State University University Park Test-optional till fall 2023 cycle
Washington University in St. Louis St. Louis Test-optional till fall 2022 cycle
The Ohio State University Columbus Test-optional for 2021-2022 cycle
Purdue University West Lafayette Test-optional for 2021-2022 cycle
Boston University Boston Test-optional till spring 2023 cycle
University of California, Davis Davis Test-blind till fall 2024 cycle
University of Southern California Los Angeles Test-optional till fall 2023 cycle
University of California, Santa Barbara (UCSB) Santa Barbara Test-optional till fall 2024 cycle
University of Maryland, College Park College Park Test-optional till fall 2024 cycle
University of Pittsburgh Pittsburgh Test-optional till fall 2023 cycle
Michigan State University East Lansing Test-optional permanently

Source: The Fair Test 

A record number of Indian student-visa applications for 2021 to the US (for the fall-term 2021) were approved as over 55,000 students and exchange visitors from India are now heading over to the US for higher education, with numbers expected to grow. The US saw a 30% increase in Indian students in 2021.

That said, the majority of the US colleges/universities are going for test-optional admissions, which means that your applications would be considered with or without ACT/SAT scores.

Top US colleges/universities that are now opting for Test-optional include:

      • Harvard
      • Columbia University
      • Cornell University
      • University of California
      • Stanford
      • Dartmouth College
      • Yale
      • Brown University
      • Tufts
      • Northeastern University
      • Boston University

If you are thinking of studying in the US, what better year to do it than in 2021?

Read more also about Universities in the USA.

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Global Ed


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