The Half Truth Behind Test Optional Policies at Harvard, Cornell and others

Feb 5, 2021 | podcast

In today’s episode, Dr. Legatt talks about test-optional policies and how you can work with them.

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VO: Welcome to College Admissions Real Talk with Dr. Aviva Legatt, a podcast for students seeking to get admitted to top-tier colleges. Each episode will feature an important tip for your college admission success, delivered with candor and love. If you’ve ever wanted to take a peek inside the mind of a college admissions officer, this is your chance. Have a question? Text Dr. Legatt at 610-222-5762. So, what’s your dream school? 

AL: Welcome to College Admissions Real Talk. This is Dr. Aviva Legatt, founder and Elite Admissions Expert at Ivy Insight. Today, we are going to be discussing Today, we are going to be talking about the half-truth behind Test-optional policies of Harvard, Cornell, and others As you may have heard, in late January early February, many highly selective colleges began announcing their test-optional policies for the Fall 2021-Spring 2022 application cycle. These colleges say that the pandemic has brought about their decision. The publication “Inside Higher-Ed” calls this “a ban on testing”, but that’s not true. These colleges are not banning tests. Test-optional means that these colleges are still accepting these examinations and, if you are a savvy college applicant, you’ll know that anything optional essentially means required. And I’m sad to say that because I do think that if these colleges were truly test-optional, it would increase access and increase the availability of seats for nontraditional applicants. However, these policies are paying lip service to the concerns of the pandemic while privileging applicants who have the means and ability to take these tests. This is the unfortunate reality that things that are optional are actually required at these highly selective colleges. Why? Because the SAT optional problem kind of snowballs on itself. When you have more applicants to a University, those who can jump through more hoops and complete more steps in the process. Whether it’s taking an examination, writing an extra essay, or getting a further letter of recommendation, are going to be privileged beyond those who are unable to do that. These optional policies are self-serving to the universities because these colleges have the bragging rights that they are highly selective and even more highly selective year after year while leaving many applicants in the dust. According to Robert Schafer, who’s the inner room executive director of fair tests, They believe that these moves are highly significant and that the test extensions are vanguard of a national movement to maintain these test optional policies at highly selective colleges and universities at least through 2022. And I would love to agree with Mr. Schaefer and I know that this organization is truly trying to make a difference when it comes to access and equity in higher ed. However, these highly selective colleges are not privileging these underrepresented applicants and these applicants that have a challenge and they will continue to privilege applicants that have test scores. So my suggestion to you is that you do prepare for these tests and you take them as best as you can in this upcoming cycle. This is because your application will be privileged over those who cannot take these tests. And while I would never advocate for someone risking their lives to take this exam, if you’re going to school in person now, it is not so different from taking a test in-person as well. I encourage you to stay safe and also be mindful that you will have an advantage if you do have a test score coming up at all of these colleges that have a test optional policy. If you apply to a college with a test blind policy, This will indicate that they’re not even looking at anybody’s test scores. This is a truly Test optional environment where you’re not going to be penalized for not having scores because they’re simply not looking at anybody’s scores. You have to remember from my latest episode that the SAT IIs are no longer going to be offered. Now, the College Board has encouraged applicants to take APs in lieu of SAT II. Unfortunately, tests are not going away anytime soon. Standardized tests will continue to remain a hallmark of the selective college admissions process. Do not believe quote “test-optional”. Remember, it is “test-optional” but “test-preferred” when it comes to these highly selective colleges. If you have questions about this, text 610-222-5762. I look forward to hearing from you.

VO: College Admissions Real Talk is hosted by Aviva Legatt, edited by Stephanie Carlin, and produced by Incontrera Consulting. I’m Caroline Stokes and this has been your daily boost of college admissions insight. Have a question? Text Dr. Legatt at 610-222- 5762. For more information on Dr. Legatt and Ivy Insight visit www.ivyinsight.com. And you can pick up Dr. Legatt’s book, “Get Real and Get In”, at major retail outlets across the world. Insight out.