Shiho Fukada/The New York Times

Cornell admissions decides to retain their test-optional and test-blind policies for the Fall 2025 applicants.

February 7, 2024

Cornell Continues Test-Optional, Test-Blind Policies for Fall 2025 Applicants

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Cornell Undergraduate Admissions announced on Feb. 6 that it would extend its test-optional and test-blind policies for the Fall 2025 application cycle, leaving all Cornell colleges and schools without a standardized testing requirement.

Cornell’s admissions testing policy states that SAT and ACT scores will be considered on an optional basis for the College of Arts and Sciences, the College of Engineering, the College of Human Ecology, the Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy and the School of Industrial and Labor Relations. 

The College of Agriculture and Life Sciences; the College of Architecture, Art and Planning and the Cornell S.C. Johnson College of Business — which includes the School of Hotel Administration and Dyson School of Applied Economics — will remain test-blind and not consider test scores for any applicants.

Cornell initially suspended its testing requirement in April 2020 in response to access issues stemming from the COVID-19 pandemic. The University then announced in September 2021 that this suspension would continue for the Fall 2023 and upcoming Fall 2024 admissions cycles.

Tuesday’s announcement comes in the wake of Dartmouth’s Feb. 5 reintroduction of its SAT/ACT requirement. Dartmouth stands alone as the only Ivy League university that will require standardized test scores for admission in Fall 2025, while Columbia announced in March 2023 that it would become permanently test-optional.

At the time of publication, Cornell Admissions had not responded to a request for comment on factors that motivated the University’s continuation of testing policy and whether the University plans to continue the suspension of testing requirements in admissions cycles after Fall 2025.

Critics of testing requirements have said that the tests do not reflect a student’s full abilities, often citing disparities in standardized testing performance along socioeconomic lines.

Research on standardized testing has found that test scores are strongly correlated with annual household income. Opportunity Insights, a research organization in Harvard University’s Department of Economics, found that students from families whose household income is within the top 20 percent were seven times more likely to score a 1300 or higher on the SAT or a 29 on the ACT than those from families whose household income is within the bottom 20 percent. These scores rank above the 90th percentile of test-takers, according to data from the College Board and ACT.

However, in an interview with The New York Times, Stuart Schmill, the admissions dean at Massachusetts Institute of Technology — which announced their reinstatement of their standardized testing requirement in March 2022 to “better assess the academic preparedness of all applicants” to the university  — said that after reinstating testing, diversity increased in the university’s incoming class.

“Once we brought the test requirement back, we admitted the most diverse class that we ever had in our history,” Schmill told The Times.

Proponents of testing requirements like Schmill often cite the utility of the SAT and ACT as predictors of future success. Data from Opportunity Insights also found that standardized test scores are a stronger predictor of success during and after college than high school grades are.

In a previous interview with The Sun, Chief Executive Officer of Strategic Test Prep and standardized test tutor Laura Whitmore explained how colleges use standardized tests as a tool to evaluate their applicants. 

“Colleges are businesses, so they have to make a bet on each student that they accept,” Whitmore said. “So [test scores] help mitigate risk for them [and] see where students’ skills are at and what kind of additional support they may need.”

Still, Cornell does not anticipate making changes to its testing policy for the next two admissions cycles. Applicants to the University in Fall 2026 can expect the University to announce its testing policy for that admissions cycle in Summer 2024, according to a representative of the University.

Clarification, Feb. 12, 1:54 p.m.: This article has been updated to include updated information about the timeline for announcing the testing policy for future admissions cycles. The admissions website had not been updated at the time of publication and incorrectly said that applicants to the University in Fall 2026 can expect the University to announce its testing policy for that admissions cycle in Spring 2025, not Summer 2024.