Make a Fearless Prediction: How will colleges use the SAT/ACT for the class of 2026?

I agree the point has validity. The decline of the student population in general is going to force many of the second tier colleges to drop the test requirements altogether. They will simply need to fill their schools or face closure or consolidation. However, I believe that the top schools and flagship state schools will reinstate the policy. The flagship state schools are mandated to accept a certain number of in-state students so tests don’t always have to factor in the decision for those students but the schools will need those tests to be a tie breaker between OOS students, and they also will want to keep their average test scores of admitted students as high as possible.

I think at almost every school the first question they ask is “can this applicant cut it academically here?”. What it takes to cut it varies dramatically obviously, but also some schools aren’t looking for a lot more than that. The standardized test score is really helpful to determine quickly whether someone can cut it, especially when you couple the score with GPA data.

University of Michigan gets over 60k applications a year, and it has to be hard to walk away from what standardized tests cores quickly tell them.

We know that California public universities are SAT/ACT-skeptical, and their announced decision is that they are either test-blind or (maybe for UCs) test-optional next year.

It may not vary as dramatically as assumed. Most* of the most selective colleges have it relatively easy on this question, because of their surplus of “3.8-4.0 HS GPA in hard courses” applicants who have a very high chance of academic success at almost any college. It is in the realm of moderately selective colleges where differences in admission credentials significantly change the probability of academic success in college. At the low end of selectivity (or open admission colleges), the colleges basically have to organize themselves around the “give everyone a chance, so that those with poor prior academic records who turn themselves around have the possibility of future success, but knowing that not all will make it” model.

*Exceptions being the few colleges with extra-high minimum rigor like Caltech and Harvey Mudd, and some specialty schools like military service academies and music conservatories where interests, abilities, and skills other than traditional high school academic measures are highly relevant to success there.


Here is another prediction: Florida publics will (continue to) require the SAT or ACT. It looks like they never went test-optional.

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Bold move IMO, but supported their focus on the in-state students. I was just surprised that Gainesville was able to stick with that strategy. Fewer applications from the northeast I would imagine. I told my daughter, if a school wants you to get on a flight to take a test in a high risk environment, that is not the kind of school you want to attend. Big thumbs down to FL system this year.


Thanks @HopefullyUNC2025


Cornell announced today that they will be test optional as well for the class of 2022.

These specific colleges are score-free and will NOT review scores as part of admissions:

  • College of Agriculture and Life Sciences
  • College of Architecture, Art, and Planning
  • Cornell SC Johnson College of Business - Dyson School of Applied Economics and Management
  • Cornell SC Johnson College of Business - School of Hotel Administration

The Colleges that will be Test Optional and review scores if submitted are:

  • College of Arts & Sciences
  • College of Engineering
  • College of Human Ecology
  • School of Industrial and Labor Relations

This information does not apply to recruited athletes as Cornell


Thank you for reposting! Honestly, this news shocked me today. Hearing a lot of colleges, including elite colleges, move away from placing heavy emphasis on standardized testing makes me wonder how important these tests were in the first place and if there is going to be some sort of standardized component in the admissions process that will replace it.

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I agree and also wonder if “score-free” and “test-blind” mean the exact same thing?



These specific colleges are score-free and will NOT review scores as part of admissions:

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That suggests test-blind for those divisions that say that.

They are carrying over the same policies they had for Class of 2021.

Will be interesting to see if the Ivy League allows TO next year too, I predict they will. It seems that juniors in certain states (looking at you California) might struggle to get tests before next Fall.

Prior to COVID-19, Cornell’s admission decisions and website comments do not suggest a “heavy emphasis” on standardized testing. I think many people overestimate the influence of standardized testing because it is easier to quantify and rank scores than most other areas of the application.


This, highlighted and shouted loudly!

People like to think, it seems to me, that single-timepoint bits of data (e.g., SAT/ACT, essays) are much more important in college admissions than they actually are, particularly when compared to data that covers a longer time period (e.g., GPA and its trajectory, progression through coursework).

There may well be something really deep and meaningful to say about human psychology related to that, but I don’t know what exactly it would be.:slightly_smiling_face:


I do not think folks are saying the SAT/ACT trumps all, instead believe if you have the GPA and the SAT/ACT it should mean more than just having the GPA.


Actually, it seems to me that many people (and organizations like USNWR rankings) value easily comparable bits of data because they are easily comparable and therefore convenient. In terms of comparability and convenience and therefore mindshare (in terms of questions like “how selective is college X?” or “is college X is reach/match/likely/safety for this student?”), as perceived by many on these forums:

  1. Standardized test scores.
  2. GPA, class rank, and other high school record aspects.
  3. “Hooks” (e.g. recruited athlete, legacy, development, URM).
  4. Extracurriculars.
  5. Essays.
  6. Recommendations.

Note that 5 and 6 are invisible to others, and 6 may be invisible to the applicant. Also, most people outside of college X’s admission office have no idea how a given applicant’s 4, 5, 6 aspects compare with the rest of the applicant pool of college X. So most estimations of “how selective is college X?” and “is college X a reach/match/likely/safety for this student?” made on these forums are based on 1, 2, 3, even though 4, 5, 6 are often quite important in the admissions office of college X.

Of course, the relative importance of each of the above in the admissions process of college X may be substantially different from the above ranking of mindshare.

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Yes I agree SAT doesn’t trump all nor is it the only factor. That’s why I asked how much was the SAT worth in the admissions in the first place. Although there is a holistic approach, standardized test scores do make an important piece of the puzzle as much as any other component, not to be meant to confuse that with meaning that standardized test scores place priority over other components.

All this just makes me wonder how important were standardized scores in the first place and how will admissions look if Test Optional was the norm. Either way I’m positive qualified applicants will be accepted.

In what profession, from the blue collar licensed technicians, to a pilot, to the brain surgeon or to your 16 year old taking a drivers test are objective tests that measure learned material not important? A properly designed test will examine whether or not the material and courses required by colleges have been mastered. The absence of a well designed test means the colleges are inherently taking a chance on an applicant. Perhaps other factors can determine this but as long as all the other factors for review are subjective such as individual teachers standards for grading, then standardized tests should always count for something, IMO.

In the US, college admission standardized testing has long been dominated by “aptitude” testing (SAT used to mean “Scholastic Aptitude Test”) rather than “achievement” testing for applicants to show mastery of high school college preparatory subject matter (the SAT subject tests, formerly Achievement tests, have been declining in use over the years, and have just been marked for discontinuation). The SAT has been changed to recognize that “aptitude” is hard to measure in isolation from “achievement” (although “aptitude” does affect “achievement”), but is much less of a complete assessment than a group of SAT subject tests would be for achievement in high school level material (and AP tests for more advanced level material).

So it looks like what you really want is for US college admission testing to have subject matter tests in the various high school college preparatory subjects, perhaps with different level options to accommodate regular and advanced level students. That is not really what the current SAT (or ACT) is.


This is why I said a properly designed objective test, and you are correct that the SAT and ACT don’t quite get there. However, I find it almost inconceivable that an elite school wouldn’t insist on at least seeing the AP grades which are supposed to measure the understanding of the subject matter. Taking an AP course without taking the test is fairly useless in determining if the student really is ready for the type of rigor demanded at the elite schools. It is lost on me the reasons that they are jettisoning all tests before an alternative is in place or at a minimum insisting on the AP results . Perhaps they simply want to pick and choose as they please without any second guessing or full accountability.


I get your point but many schools do not allow many AP’s before senior year - and the majority are taken senior year. Those would not be completed in enough time for consideration.