In 1926, a Princeton University psychology professor named Carl Brigham administered an IQ test, adapted from a military recruitment exam known as Army Alpha, to over 8,000 prospective college students. This exam would evolve to become what is known today as the SAT and standardized testing would evolve to become an overwhelmingly popular admissions tool used by colleges around the world. Today, roughly 2 million students in the U.S. take the SAT each year.
The coronavirus pandemic, however, has made in-person testing difficult (if not impossible) for many college applicants and colleges across the country are pausing standardized testing requirements — including Princeton University.
The move means that all eight Ivy League schools will temporarily not require standardized testing next year as well as other prestigious schools such as Caltech and Stanford University.
On June 18, Princeton University released the following statement:
“We understand the many hurdles students, families, counselors and school administrators will have to overcome in the months ahead due to changes within school communities and the unprecedented challenges presented by COVID-19. With the disruption to coursework this spring and the lack of access to the ACT and SAT, Princeton has made a few changes to the 2020-21 application cycle to ease the process of applying.
Princeton will pause on its standardized testing requirement as part of its holistic review process for the 2020-21 application cycle. Students who sit for a standardized test and wish to submit their score will still have the option to do so. However, because of the change to policy this year, applications without test scores will be rendered complete. Students who do not submit test scores will not be at a disadvantage. As with previous years, the University does not require subject tests.”
Princeton is also getting rid of its early-admission deadline, which means all applicants will be considered during the regular admission process whose deadline is January 1, 2021.
The Ivy League, which is the name of the athletic conference these prestigious schools are a part of, maintains that student-athletes should complete standardized testing.
In response, Princeton stated the following: “Recruited athletes will still need to adhere to the Ivy League policy and submit standardized testing, though the Office of Admission will be flexible in its review for those who simply cannot gain access.”
Historians have long raised concerns about Brigham’s racist attitudes and the SAT’s continued legacy of disparate outcomes for Black, Hispanic and low-income students, and in recent years the practice of requiring standardized testing has further come into question.
Now, the coronavirus pandemic may be accelerating the test-optional trend. The University of California college system, which enrolls some 280,000 college students each year, has used this moment to announce that it plans to phase out the SAT and ACT permanently.