Cornell Is Next in Line to Reinstate Testing Requirements

May 8, 2024

In late April, Cornell joined the ranks of Harvard, Yale, Dartmouth, Brown, Caltech and U.T. Austin in its decision to reinstate testing requirements. Cornell is allowing rising seniors the option to submit or withhold testing in the next admissions cycle, but will require test scores for rising sophomores and all younger classes. This grace period allows students the time they need to prepare for and take the SATs and ACTs they will need to apply.

During the pandemic, four of Cornell’s eight undergraduate colleges adopted a test-blind admissions policy, but given the compelling research outcomes presented by the Task Force on Standardized Testing in Admissions, all eight colleges are reverting to a test-required admissions policy.

The rationale for the return to test requirements

The eight-member task force analyzed the admissions and academic performance data from students who had submitted and not submitted test scores over multiple years. The key findings of the analysis were:

  1. Relaxing the testing requirement had no meaningful increase upon the diversity of the Cornell student body.
  2. Students who submitted test scores had a significantly higher chance of being admitted to the test-optional colleges.
  3. Students admitted with test scores had superior academic outcomes to those who were admitted without scores.

Testing and GPA

A key finding in the Cornell research, which mirrored that at the other Ivies and the University of Texas, was that students who did not submit scores had lower college GPAs and were more likely to have a GPA under 2.0 and fall out of “good academic standing.” Testing helped ensure students who were admitted to Cornell were prepared to succeed.

Score submission and equity

An interesting finding was that there were differences in score submission patterns across racial and ethnic categories. Among students who scored above 1400 on the SAT, only 62% of Black students submitted those scores versus 74% of White students and 79% of Asian students. Having a test-optional policy led to the withholding of scores that would have helped applicants in the admissions process and actually undermined equity efforts.

Optional but recommended

For the final year in Cornell’s experiment with test-optional admissions, the admissions office clarified that, “while the submission of SAT and/or ACT scores is optional, it is recommended.”

More test requirements to follow

More selective colleges and universities will follow the lead of the seven highly selective colleges that have reinstated testing requirements since February. However, the window to make changes affecting the class of rising seniors may be closed. At this point, students who have not yet tested would have relatively little time to adequately prepare and relatively few opportunities to secure testing before early deadlines in the fall. Future announcements of the return to test requirements will most likely exempt rising seniors and apply only to rising juniors and below.