Oregon State University's student-run lifestyle magazine

Beaver's Digest

Oregon State University's student-run lifestyle magazine

Beaver's Digest

Oregon State University's student-run lifestyle magazine

Beaver's Digest

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Dean of College of Education weighs in on reinstated Ivy SAT requirements

PJ Royland
Student uses a SAT preparation sheet to study for the test.

Among other things the COVID-19 pandemic got its hands around were college admissions. Students who were graduating in the midst of the pandemic may have been confronted with the choice to submit or not submit their standardized test scores.

As of February 22, Yale University announced that it would be requiring students to apply with their standardized test scores for admission. This makes it the second Ivy League college to reinstate the standardized testing requirement, following Dartmouth’s announcement February 5.

A letter from Dartmouth’s president, Sian Leah Beilock, explained that analysis of admissions data over several years by Dartmouth professors concluded that the holistic admissions approach would benefit from testing information as part of students application packages. 

According to Beilock’s letter, SAT/ACT scores can be especially helpful in identifying students from less-resourced backgrounds who would succeed at Dartmouth don’t submit test scores in a test-optional admissions process. According to Beilock, this disadvantages applicants from less-resourced families because Dartmouth admissions considers applicants’ scores in relation to local norms of their high school.

“For example, a 1400 SAT score from an applicant whose high school has an SAT mean of 1000 gives us valuable information about that applicant’s ability to excel in their environment, at Dartmouth, and beyond,” Beilock said in their letter.

Another finding from Dartmouth’s own admissions data analysis found that standardized test scores were an important predictor of a student’s success in Dartmouth’s curriculum, true regardless of a student’s background or family income.

Lisa Gardner, the Dean of the College of Education at Oregon State University, disagrees. According to Gardner, it is nationally known that certain groups of students do not do as well on standardized testing. These groups are largely lower income students, students of color and other marginalized populations.

There are a number of reasons for this. The questions asked on the SAT favor native English speakers and many lower-income students do not have the ability to access prep courses and schools in low-income areas often do not have the funding to provide them – among other reasons.

“There’s ultimately a lot better markers out there,” Gardner said.

Both announcements made by Yale and Dartmouth acknowledge this– there is only so much a test can say about an applicant. Their admissions processes will remain as holistic as possible, taking into account letters of recommendation, personal essays, GPA, and coursework.

Yale announced that they will allow applicants to report Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate exam scores in lieu of the ACT or SAT, through what they call a “flexible testing policy.”

These tests still have their upsides, though. According to Gardner, they provide an opportunity for some students who shine on tests, or overshadow hard years where they were not doing so well in their courses and GPA is not reflective of the student. “But I think on the whole, those are a few people, when you look at the majority where it is disenfranchising.”

According to Gardner, standardized tests are not ultimately part of an application to gauge a student’s proficiency in English or Math, though– they are there to predict a student’s performance in college. 

“You know, when it comes down to it, what is the best predictor of student performance? It is actually GPA,” Gardner said.

A student’s grade-point-average shows a broader range of data than one test, taken on one day. It is the amalgamation of, in most cases, four years of testing, Gardner said. 

As of 2024, OSU however, is still test-optional. Stating on their Admission Requirements website page that, “Test scores, if you elect to submit them, are never the sole or primary reason for an admissions decision; they are always considered in context and as supplemental information.”

“Unlike Dartmouth and Yale, OSU is a public land-grant university.” Gardner said, “We are taxpayer funded, and our mission is to serve the students of Oregon, whoever those students are, that’s our primary responsibility.”

Dartmouth and Yale are private universities, their funding relies mostly on tuition and endowments, not necessarily taxpayers. 

“That access piece is front and center,” Gardner said, “I will say just as a leader on this campus, it’s [access] in constant conversations with every dean and the provost and the president, where I don’t know if that’s always happening at some of these more elite institutions where there that’s not their primary purpose.”

OSU’s Office of Admissions was not able to comment on if their testing policies will change in the future, but graduating every student that enrolls at OSU remains part of their strategic plan.

“Students vote with their feet,” Gardner said, “If places that are going test optional, or test neutral, are getting more applicants, especially from students who might have been otherwise disenfranchised, that says a lot too. People are paying attention to that.”


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