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Dartmouth Makes A Momentous Announcement: Will Test Optional Soon Become a Thing of the Past?

By Laura Whitmore

Reflecting on the New York Times' recent exploration titled "The Misguided War on the SATs," it's evident that numerous colleges are reassessing the effectiveness of their test-optional policies. Contrary to widespread belief, SAT scores are not just pivotal in assessing college preparedness, particularly in prestigious institutions, but they also provide an opportunity for students from less privileged backgrounds to stand out. This is increasingly significant given the alarming trend of grade inflation nationwide, where approximately 80% of students reportedly maintain an ‘A’ average. In this context, standardized tests like the SAT and ACT emerge as consistent and objective measures of a student's academic abilities.

Despite these revelations, the article suggested a hesitation among colleges to reintroduce mandatory testing policies, largely due to concerns over political repercussions and potential impacts on their application numbers. Institutions like Purdue have attempted to navigate this by adopting terms such as “test expected,” indicating a cautious approach to policy change.

A notable shift occurred today with Dartmouth's announcement to reinstate a mandatory testing policy, becoming the first Ivy League institution to do so. This policy, effective for the 2025 admissions cycle, is seen by the university as a step towards attracting a more promising and diverse student body. The argument for mandatory testing fostering diversity is particularly compelling; it highlights how students from economically disadvantaged backgrounds often lack the resources for extensive extracurricular activities or global experiences, making standardized tests a more equitable platform for showcasing their potential.

Drawing from personal experience, I can attest to the transformative power of SAT scores. Coming from a modest background and attending an inner-city public school, my SAT results were instrumental in securing a full scholarship to Boston College and significant scholarships to Notre Dame and Colgate. My story is a testament to the opportunity these scores provide to those who might be overlooked due to their socioeconomic status.

Moreover, the move away from mandatory testing raises an important question about accountability and the message we send to students. The notion of working hard to achieve goals is fundamental, and diluting this principle by removing academic challenges does a disservice to students’ preparation for real-world challenges.

Dartmouth’s decision marks a commendable step against prevailing trends, focusing on what they believe is beneficial for academic integrity and student diversity. This move could potentially pave the way for other institutions to follow suit, reevaluating the role of standardized testing in college admissions.


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