Due to exceptional circumstances arising from the coronavirus outbreak, Yale College has amended its admissions expectations for applicants to the class of 2025 — aligning with a handful of peers in changing expectations to ease the application process for high schoolers.

While the SAT or ACT scores are still required, the Advanced Placement and SAT Subject Tests that were once “recommended” have become entirely optional. The updates also clarify that there will be no penalty for students from high schools that opt for a pass/fail grading system. These changes come after the College Board’s decisions to cancel SAT exams through the month of May and shift the AP exams to a format that can be taken at home.

“The COVID-19 outbreak is changing how schools teach and students learn all around the world,” the official Yale College announcement wrote. “The staff at Yale’s Office of Undergraduate Admissions recognizes that the outbreak will have lasting effects on school communities and on students’ academic records, standardized testing opportunities, extracurricular activities, and learning experiences outside of school.”

According to the statement, Yale will take each student’s unique context into account when reviewing applications and that no student will be penalized due to a change in commitments or plans because of the outbreak.

The University made a similar announcement in regard to Yale’s graduate schools.

“Our entire admissions process is holistic and contextual, and carefully considers every part of the application — i.e. university coursework and grades, research experience, medical experience, MCAT scores, extracurricular and community activities, application responses and personal qualities, letters of support, and (if offered) interviews — in the context of each individual student’s background,” Ayaska Fernando, director of admissions for the Yale School of Medicine wrote in an email to the News. “We will take circumstances surrounding the 2020 academic year into account when evaluating the applications of all students enrolled in classes this term.”

With many schools going online, some high schools have adopted a pass/fail grading system. According to Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Jeremiah Quinlan, the College affirms that students should not worry what decision their school makes in terms of the way courses will be graded. In addition, should a student’s grades fall during the spring 2020 semester, they will have an opportunity to explain their situation on their application.

“We know some students have taken on significant home responsibilities, or significant health care responsibilities and we’re going to ask that they share that with us,” Quinlan said. “We certainly would be understanding while we review the application. Essentially, I’m not sure how closely we’re going to be able to look at the grades we get this semester versus what we had gotten in previous semesters because of the fact that it’s going to be so different and we understand that people are having to deal with extraordinary circumstances.”

Testing dates for the SAT and ACT college placement exams through May have been postponed or canceled across the world in response to the pandemic. The College Board has also removed the in-person component of Advanced Placement tests. Instead, they have introduced a new at-home testing option in which the exam will be open-book.

According to Quinlan, the school hopes that “students will be able to complete the ACT or the SAT before the next set of admissions deadlines.” They are monitoring the situation closely so that if there are changes, there may be a change in policy, Quinlan said. All other standardized tests are optional, such as SAT Subject Tests and Advanced Placement tests.

“We do not expect students currently enrolled in academic year courses to complete [the SAT Subject Tests or the AP exams] in the spring or summer,” Quinlan said. “In the past we would have said that we recommend them, but I think at this point it’s better for us to say that we did not expect you to take those. I really hope students will take this message. Instead of registering for the Subject Tests, focus on doing well on the SAT or ACT whenever students are able to take standardized tests again.”

According to Quinlan, while they can expect that they are going to see fewer AP exams, the admissions office will “still have enough information to make a good careful whole person admission decision.”

The announcement also stated that Yale has made no changes to its financial aid policies. The Office of Undergraduate Financial Aid will continue to award scholarships on the basis of financial need.

The College Board has canceled the May 2 SAT and SAT Subject Test administration.


Kelly Wei | kelly.wei@yale.edu