The New York Times reports that prestigious universities Georgetown, Harvard, and Princeton have all dropped a test from their ‘three SAT subject test’ admissions requirement. This means that no American college currently requires more than 2 standardized subject tests to gain admission.
Since the introduction of the SAT Writing component in 2005, colleges have been gradually reducing the subject-test requirement. This reflects the view that the SAT is a more holistic test than it was in years past, and a better indicator of first-year academic success.
But why, when top colleges like Stanford, Harvard, Columbia, Brown and Dartmouth are receiving record numbers of applicants (and, as you would expect, also rejecting record numbers of applicants) would they simultaneously want to reduce the subject test requirement, and subsequently eliminate data that could help them refine their choices?
Many admissions counselors believe that by requiring multiple subject tests, universities were impeding their access to students of a lower socioeconomic background. Less testing equals greater accessibility for lower-income students. “Many colleges, including Harvard, became confident that by reducing the number of required tests, they would not reduce their capacity to make good academic assessments,” Jeff A. Neal, a Harvard spokesman, says.
That doesn’t mean that multiple subject tests are not recommended (Georgetown’s admissions requirements even state that fact outright). Prestigious universities are very clearly leveling the playing field in one regard, but they are also able to vet potential students on other admissions criteria, including co-curricular activities and anything that might help set that student apart.
The lesson here is that while the reduction in the number of required subject tests feels like big news, the situation has not perceptibly changed. Students should take as many subject tests as they can perform well on, and they should take advantage of tutoring sessions, test prep courses, and at-home support, all of which will improve their chances for acceptance at the college of their choice.