Logan Howard, Senior Photographer

Yale Admissions is expected to announce whether or not it will once again require applicants to submit standardized test scores this spring.

Due to public health concerns regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, Yale first adopted a test-optional policy in 2020 for those applying to the class of 2025. For both application cycles since — including the round currently in-progress — Yale renewed this policy due to limited testing availability, particularly abroad. 

Each of these decisions were made on a year-to-year basis. But as testing access returns to pre-pandemic levels, the admissions office previously said it would release a longer-term decision in the winter of 2023. However, according to Dean of Undergraduate Admissions and Financial Aid Jeremiah Quinlan, the decision is now slated for the spring.

“Because we are still in the process of gathering and analyzing data, and we are still actively in conversation with university leaders, we have pushed our announcement timeline back,” Quinlan wrote to the News. “We want to ensure we are making this policy with the best available data, and that we can invest the time in communicating our policy and the reasons for it when we’ve arrived at a decision in the next few months.”

In April of 2021, the News first reported that test-optional policies are one factor leading to the record-setting spike in applicants to the classes of 2025, 2026 and 2027. 

Though the admissions office does not draw conclusive causal relationships between specific policy changes and applicant pool demographics, over these three cycles, the waived testing requirement has been linked to an increase in international applicants and greater racial diversity in the pool overall. These trends have continued through the current application cycle.

“Comparing this year’s first-year applicant pool with the group of students who applied in the 2019-2020 cycle, the overall applicant pool has grown by 49% whereas the pool of applicants from abroad has more than doubled,” wrote Mark Dunn ’07, the senior associate director for outreach and recruitment at the Office of Undergraduate Admissions. “It is clear that removing the ACT or SAT requirement has lowered barriers for applicants from abroad and encouraged more students to apply.”

Since switching to test-optional three years ago, Senior Associate Director for the First-Year Application Process Hannah Mendlowitz ’12 told the News that the biggest change has been the increase in applicants. However, these larger applicant pools also contain a “higher percentage of less competitive applicants than it did 5 or 10 years ago,” Mendlowitz explained. 

According to Mendlowtiz, a common misconception is that admissions officers employ standardized test score cut-offs to whittle down the applicant pool. She stressed that test scores can be “a helpful tool”  in making admissions decisions but recognizes that every test is “imperfect and incomplete.”

“Testing, alongside high school grades, can help the committee understand academic preparedness for Yale and highlight students’ academic strengths in one or more areas,” Mendlowitz wrote in an email to the News. “I think the most salient challenge we face with testing is that students tend to think narrowly about whether a particular score will “hurt” or “help” their application, and they tend to imagine that there is a simple threshold that determines whether they should submit scores.”

Quinlan and Mendlowitz both explained that due to Yale’s holistic approach to application review, test scores do not unilaterally determine admissions outcomes. As such, the admissions office has been able to maintain the same committee-based evaluations in both test-optional and test-mandatory application cycles. 

“Because of this experience, we feel confident in saying that we can operate the admissions process with a test-optional policy,” Quinlan told the News. “The question we are now grappling with is whether we should.”

The Undergraduate Admissions office is located at 38 Hillhouse Ave. 

Anika Arora Seth is the 146th Editor in Chief and President of the Yale Daily News. Anika previously covered STEM at Yale as well as admissions, alumni and financial aid. She also laid out the weekly print edition of the News as a Production & Design editor and was one of the inaugural Diversity, Equity & Inclusion co-chairs. Anika is pursuing a double major in biomedical engineering and women's, gender and sexuality studies.