Dartmouth Reinstates Standardized Test Requirement for Class of 2029 Amidst Test-Optional Landscape

Dartmouth College made history as the first Ivy League institution to reintroduce standardized testing requirements for applicants. This decision comes after a period of test-optional policies implemented in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and raises questions about the role of standardized testing in college admissions.

Dartmouth's Testing Decision Explained 

Lee Coffin, Dartmouth's Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, highlighted the Dartmouth faculty research group's significant role in the decision-making process. Their comprehensive research underscored the importance of standardized test scores in predicting student success at Dartmouth. President Beilock emphasized the value of these scores in assessing applicants' academic abilities regardless of their socioeconomic background, while Bruce Sacerdote from the research group, emphasized their utility in identifying high-achieving students, especially from under-resourced schools.

Applicant Implications in Dartmouth's Testing Reinstatement

The reinstated testing requirement may have varying implications for applicants from diverse backgrounds. Dartmouth's commitment to holistic admissions, as explained by Coffin, means that standardized test scores are considered alongside other factors, such as GPA, extracurricular activities, essays, and recommendations. Sacerdote's insights suggest that standardized testing serves as an additional data point in evaluating applicants within the context of their educational environment.

"Where I work, given our selectivity, it complicates the question of How do we make informed decisions that require some precision among a pool of high achievers? Information is valuable, and why would you leave any information on the table? We're not saying in this reactivation that your test score defines you. We're not saying we no longer value the whole person or the integrity of a transcript and curriculum; those remain the heart of our process. But having scores as part of that assessment is meaningful to us." 

- Lee Coffin, Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, Dartmouth College

Insights into Dartmouth's Testing Policy: Factors Considered in Admissions

In evaluating applicants, Dartmouth employs a contextualized approach to standardized testing, considering factors such as school profiles and access to test preparation resources. Coffin emphasized the importance of balancing multiple factors in admissions decisions, including GPA and standardized test scores. President Beilock reiterated that test scores inform, rather than dictate, Dartmouth's admissions decisions.

“The recommendation for testing emerged as a crucial element for providing a more comprehensive understanding of our applicants. Our commitment to evidence-based policies led us to gather data, consult with faculty researchers, and ultimately reinstate standardized testing requirements. Dartmouth sees this decision as tailored to our unique context and institutional needs, recognizing that other institutions may follow diverse paths based on their own considerations."

- Lee Coffin

During the test-optional period, a significant percentage of applicants opted to submit standardized test scores, indicating their perceived value among prospective students. Predictions regarding the impact of the reinstated testing requirement on the applicant pool remain uncertain, with considerations of both internal and external factors. A comparison with peer institutions' testing policies provides additional context for Dartmouth's decision.

Dartmouth's Testing Reinstatement and Its Impact on College Admissions

Dartmouth is the first Ivy League institution to reinstate standardized testing requirements, marking a significant moment as colleges reconsider test-optional policies adopted during the pandemic. Lee Coffin, Dartmouth's Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid, reflects on the weight of this decision within higher education:

"We made the decision to be test optional in a spontaneous moment as the pandemic really took hold... This year, we’re recommending students submit scores because we value having another piece of information. We were deliberate in emphasizing that we looked at this through the prism of Dartmouth College alone. The faculty looked at our data and gave me a recommendation about our admission process."

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7EDU Impact Academy 7 February, 2024
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