Julia Nagel/Sun Assistant Photography Editor

A crowded Ho plaza in September, 2021; Cornell's decision to remain test-optional is partially due to ongoing COVID-19 risks.

September 23, 2021

Cornell Waives Standardized Testing Requirement for First-Year Applications Through Fall 2024

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Undergraduate students applying to Cornell over the next two admissions cycles won’t have to submit their test scores. 

The undergraduate admissions office announced Wednesday that the University will waive SAT and ACT requirements for Fall 2023 and Fall 2024 first-year applicants — a decision that was made following ongoing COVID-19 risks. 

This policy comes after Cornell became the first Ivy League University to waive SAT and ACT requirements in April 2020 for first-year applicants in any of its seven colleges.

Cornell’s decision to extend this policy acknowledged the ongoing risks of COVID-19 in testing centers across the globe. The statement added that Cornell is also entering a two-year “deliberate experimental review” period to guide future admissions testing policy requirements.  

“We will engage both in self-study about the role of testing in promoting access and success at Cornell and systematically review admission assessments in partnership with other universities and higher education organizations,” the statement reads.

Under this policy, three colleges –– the College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, the Cornell SC Johnson College of Business and the College of Architecture, Art and Planning –– will not accept standardized test scores. The Colleges of Arts and Sciences, the College of Engineering and the College of Human Ecology, along with the School of Industrial and Labor Relations, maintains a test-optional policy for SAT and ACT scores.  

Requirements for SAT subject tests, in addition to the essay section of the SAT and ACT, were also waived and will be discontinued in 2021, according to Cornell’s standardized testing website

The decision to change standardized testing requisites has become more common in recent years. In May 2020, the University of California Board of Regents unanimously voted against requiring standardized testing in the admissions process. All eight Ivy League schools suspended testing requirements for Fall 2022. 

Many of these adjustments follow ongoing conversations about testing equity, an issue that has only been amplified by COVID-19’s disproportionate effect on low-income students.

“Research has shown that test scores do not accurately reflect teaching and learning,” writes education journalist Valerie Strauss in a March 2021 Washington Post article. “Rather, they overwhelmingly reflect levels of poverty and other non-school factors such as housing insecurity, food insecurity and access to health care.”

The Wednesday announcement also stated that Cornell will follow Ivy League testing policies for student-athlete applicants. For the current academic year, applicants who plan to participate in a varsity sport did not need to submit test scores. The Ivy League has not yet announced its plans for future years.

The University encourages applicants to consider their health and safety above testing. 

“Please do not feel you need to take exams unless you are able to take the exam locally near your home and you feel safe in doing so,” Cornell’s current standardized test policy site reads. “As a reminder, we will evaluate your application without standardized testing.”