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    Colleges That Don’t Require SATs: How Do They Know Who to Admit?

    Posted March 16, 2022, 10:00 am by Joyce Slayton Mitchell
    A standardized test paper has the letters SAT filled in

    How Has the Admission Process Changed at Colleges That Don't Require SATs?

    As Harvard goes ... so goes US colleges and university admissions. Such is the case with standardized testing. Joining a number of other top US school, Harvard is one of many colleges that don't require SATs anymore.

    “No SATs this year,” says dean of admissions at Harvard. That means all students - seniors, juniors, sophomores, and even freshmen - may not have to submit or even take the often-dreaded standardized test.

    “Due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and its continued impact on access to testing for high school age students," said the school, "Harvard College will allow students to apply for admission without requiring SAT or ACT scores for the upcoming admitted classes of ’27, ’28, ’29, and ’30."

    So the question that students and parents have now is “How will Admissions Deans at US colleges choose who gets in?

    How Important are SAT Scores?

    As many high school counselors have always known, rigor of curriculum and grades in that curriculum have always counted just as much if not than SATs, APs or any other testing.

    Unfortunately, parents and students alike learn more about applications and test scores from test-prep companies making a profit on the promise of higher test scores than they do from from educators . Test prep advertises that the test scores are key to getting in where you want to go, but professionals closer to the student will be quick to point out that it takes a lot more than test scores to get that letter of acceptance.

    Why Did Colleges Change Their Mind On Requiring SATs?

    They didn't, really. Even though you may think this is a change, the only “change” part is that colleges are announcing and acknowledging that other things are as important as test scores.

    The rigor of your curriculum in junior and senior year have always been the crucial measures of your academic achievement and interests. This rigor and grades have always counted more for admissions except in a few state universities where the state legislature sets the test scores for university admissions in their state.

    In some states, the state legislators determine test scores or grades necessary for admissions. For example, in Texas, the top 10% of the high school class are automatically accepted at the University of Texas.

    What Does This Mean for You?

    What does this change in admissions testing mean to you?

    Most importantly, it should mean that when students choose their curriculum for next year, often in March or April, that they should take the next step up in mathematics, science and foreign language, whether they like the course or not. Students will simply have more choices when it comes to college with more rigorous curriculum under their belt.

    If you are a freshman or sophomore in high school right now, choosing your courses soon for next year, be mindful of taking the highest math, foreign language and lab science that you can do well in.

    Current juniors: Do not take a vacation in next year’s curriculum choices by dropping higher mathematics, foreign language or lab science if you want to go to a competitive college.

    Don't take classes you can't pass of course -- if you are in doubt about your skills in a certain discipline, ask your teacher for their recommendation. However, on the whole, taking Advanced Chemistry or French III in junior year will give you more choices for competitive colleges than not taking that next level.

    Think about it: curriculum choices determine the options you will have when choosing your college. You are not choosing by minimum requirements a college says it takes to get in, you are choosing by the strongest curriculum you can handle well.

    AP or IB only matters to a certain extent to colleges. Whatever choices you have in your particular high school are how you are measured. Some schools don’t offer any AP, IB or honor courses, yet students from such schools consistently get accepted to the country's top schools.

    In short: you are measured by what is the most rigorous curriculum in your school, not by what other high schools offer. This, even more so than before, is how colleges will decide who gets admitted now that they are no longer requiring SAT scores.


    Colleges that don't require SATs don't seem to be changing their mind on the matter anytime soon. So if you shine on SATs but do a lot less homework and get lower grades than test scores, you should really focus your in-school curriculum moving forward. If you already dreaded taking SATs, but your best academic work is in your classes or college prep courses, then you're likely to be happy with the change.

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    Joyce Slayton Mitchell

    Joyce Slayton Mitchell

    Joyce Slayton Mitchell, former public and school college counselor, author of WHO IS THIS KID? COLLEGES WANT TO KNOW! Writing Exercises for Winning Applications, 2019; 8 First Choices: Strategies for Getting in, 4th Edition, 2020. Education Consultant for U.S. College Admissions, US and China.