The Importance of SAT’s and ACT’s on College Applications


Admission tests, like the SAT and ACT, have been significant determinants of whether students are accepted into universities since the 1940s. However, several universities have decided to become either test-optional or test-blind in recent years. This number grew exponentially over the pandemic, with two in three American universities not requiring a submission. 

At first it seemed that this change was just a side effect of the pandemic and that we would go back to normal eventually. But, this was not the case, as many universities decided to keep this new policy. The University of California system has gone as far as to remove the SAT and ACT from their admissions requirements, adopting a test-blind policy. California State University’s (CSU) acting chancellor stated, “In essence, we are eliminating our reliance on a high-stress, high-stakes test that has shown negligible benefit and providing our applicants with greater opportunities to demonstrate their drive, talents, and potential for college success.” 

CSU and other colleges that plan on ending SAT and ACT submissions claim that they are also trying to make their campuses more diverse, and this change will help achieve that goal. Universities like MIT have even decided to reverse since they believe not requiring the test lessens diversity. “Our research suggests the strategic use of testing can help us continue to improve our class’s diversity and its collective success at MIT,” said MIT’s Dean of Admissions Stu Schmill. 

Diversity is crucial, and all universities should try their best to admit students from all backgrounds. However, the idea that standardized tests lessens diversity because minority and lower-income students perform poorly on them is false. CSU’s Professeur Kum Kum Bhavnani released a report that showed evidence that the SAT and ACT improve diversity.

 Students from lower-income areas typically have fewer opportunities to have outside activities or extracurriculars on their application, meaning they have to depend on their grades, classes, and test scores to be accepted into colleges. Having a good SAT or ACT score can be a game-changer for those who cannot look more impressive in other aspects of their application. 

Students have also become suspicious of some of the intentions of colleges going test-optional about scholarships and financial aid. Colleges claim that people would still qualify for the Merit-Based Scholarships even if their test scores were not submitted; however, aid is different. 

Anders Bruce interviewed multiple students and found that those who did not submit their scores received less financial aid. The fact that universities are not more forthright about how not submitting a score might harm a student’s prospects of obtaining financial aid is shady. This also counters the fact that becoming test optional was supposed to allow more students from low-income families to attend. Although colleges claim to be test-optional for the sake of the students, they could be doing it for their benefit. 

Students who would’ve never applied to certain higher-ranking schools before, because they were worried that their test scores were not good enough, now will. Harvard, for example, had a 42% increase in applications after deciding not to require scores. Although more people are applying, the same number of students will be admitted, thus making the school look even more selective, which lowers the acceptance rate making the university seem more elite. s. 

The students that the colleges choose to admit are also usually those who submit scores, like Georgetown, with only 7% of their accepted applicants from 2020 being those who did not submit SAT/ACT scores, which does not align with the idea that the university was test-blind. Both the reasoning and the outcome of colleges becoming test-optional are disappointing. 

Substantial change in testing requirements needs to be made since there are several flaws in the system, but this modification does not express that change.