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Cornell reinstates required standardized testing for applicants applying in the 2026 admission cycle.

April 22, 2024

Cornell Reinstates Standardized Testing Requirement for Fall 2026 Application Cycle

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Since the 2021 admissions cycle, Cornell University’s eight undergraduate colleges have adopted test-optional and test-blind policies. However, starting in the 2026 admissions cycle, all colleges will mandate prospective students to submit a standardized test score with their applications. 

Although colleges will continue test-optional and test-blind policies for the Fall 2025 admissions cycle, students are encouraged to submit SAT and/or ACT scores.

Test-Optional Schools for Fall 2025 Enrollment:

  • College of Arts and Sciences
  • College of Engineering
  • College of Human Ecology
  • Jeb E. Brooks School of Public Policy
  • School of Industrial and Labor Relations

Test-Blind Schools for Fall 2025 Enrollment:

  • College of Agriculture and Life Sciences, 
  • College of Architecture, Art and Planning
  • Cornell S.C. Johnson College of Business

Cornell initially suspended standardized test requirements for applicants in April 2020 due to SAT and ACT test cancellations due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Many peer institutions — including Yale and Dartmouth — recently announced that they would reinstate the standardized testing requirement. Other universities including Columbia stated that they would remain test-optional.  

The University decided to reinstate its standardized testing requirement based on evidence from a multi-year study conducted by the University’s Task Force on Standardized Testing in Admissions.

The task force found no clear indication that reduced testing policies brought a major increase in diversity and instead found a slight decrease in diversity along some metrics.

When the policy was first implemented in 2021, the percentage of Black, Hispanic and Indigenous students and first-generation students in the first-year class increased compared to 2020. 

However, as scores continued to not be required from 2021 to 2023, the percent of students who identify as Black, Hispanic and/or Indigenous in the first-year classes decreased from 28 percent to 25 percent.

Standardized test scores can give the admissions committees a better understanding of the students’ academic potential when contextualized to students’ backgrounds, including the high school they attend and their familial income, according to the task force.

Under current test policies, students may not submit test scores when they fall below the average admitted Cornell student scores, despite having scores that would advantage them in the admissions process once contextualized to social factors. 

The report also highlighted that based on previous studies at Cornell and elsewhere, SAT scores can help inform how first-year students will handle academic rigor, especially in their first semester. Higher SAT scores indicate that a student is more likely to stay in “good academic standing” and maintain continuous enrollment. 

Admissions officers more often selected students who submitted a test score compared to those who did not in test-optional years, according to the task force. While only 28 percent of applicants submitted a test score in fall 2022, 44 percent of admitted students submitted a test score. 

However, the report noted that this difference could also reflect that students who report test scores tend to have a stronger application overall. 

Still, regression models that estimate admissions probability — which control for various factors such as high school GPA and additional student and high school characteristics — estimated that submitting scores “significantly increases the likelihood of admission” in test-optional colleges. 

According to the task force, this finding underscores the importance of admissions officers utilizing test scores to inform their decisions.

“While it may seem counterintuitive, considering these test scores actually promotes access to students from a wider range of backgrounds and circumstances,” Provost Michael Kotlikoff wrote in the announcement.