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The College of Arts and Sciences mandated it would no longer require SAT subject tests as a condition of admission, echoing a broader trend of universities de-emphasizing standardized tests.

September 26, 2019

College of Arts and Sciences Will No Longer Require SAT Subject Tests for Undergraduate Admissions

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For future applicants to Cornell’s College of Arts and Sciences, the path to college will be paved with fewer scantron bubbles and College Board fees. Cornell announced Monday that starting this admission cycle, SAT subject tests are no longer required for first-year applicants to the College of Arts and Sciences.

In a statement to The Sun, Irene Lessmeister M.A. ’09 Ph.D. ’12, director of admissions at the arts college, cited the financial burden posed by taking the subject tests as a major reason for eliminating this requirement.

“The faculty broadly supported the elimination of the SAT Subject Test requirement, agreeing that it presented an access and cost barrier to many applicants, including those who face the largest number of personal and practical hurdles on their way to college,” Lessmeister wrote.

Not requiring SAT subjects tests brings Arts and Sciences in line with the majority of the Cornell standardized testing requirements of the other undergraduate colleges at Cornell — the College of Engineering lists subject tests as “optional,” while all the other colleges do not require them.

Natalia Hernandez ’21, president of the Cornell Lending Library — a student-run resource center providing textbooks and other supplies to students in need — and member of the First Generation Students Union, said the subject tests were a barrier to low income and first-generation students in particular due to both the cost and content of these exams.

And even if students had fee waivers, their schools may not have prepared them for the specialized material on SAT subject test exams.

“There are many schools, low-income schools, that don’t offer many advanced classes. Let’s say you want to take the math SAT. If you didn’t have an advanced math education, if your school didn’t offer Calculus or AP and IB courses, you are already at a disadvantage, because that [material] is on the exam,” Hernandez said.

For some Cornell student athletes, SAT subject tests were already not required before application. Isa Meyers ’22, a cross country runner, took her subject SAT tests in the spring of her senior year of high school, after being accepted to Cornell.

“I am an athlete here, so I was allowed to [apply] early decision without having taken the subject tests. It didn’t really matter at all, I had already received my letter of admission.” said Meyers, “I think it [my acceptance] was just conditional on taking them [the subject tests] and not failing them.”

Some Arts and Sciences students, regardless of past admission requirements, did not take the exam.

“I personally didn’t take subject tests and it didn’t seem to effect my application,” said Taliyah Trueheart ’21, who is currently a double major in performing and media arts and psychology.

So what happens to incoming applicants who have already taken these exams?

“We encourage students who have previously taken the exams, or who plan to do so shortly, to submit those scores if they feel they will enhance their application,” Lessmeister wrote in the statement. “If students opt not to submit SAT Subject Test scores, their application will not be disadvantaged in our review process.”

Even some applicants who have already taken the exam welcome the change.

“I hope this change brings about a change in admissions policy to focus more on the applicant themselves and not just their scores,” said Rayhan Ahmed, a senior in high school from Lexington, Massachusetts.