Rachel Shin, Contributing Photographer

Changes in admissions policies began during the COVID-19 pandemic when many students were unable to take standardized tests, which led to the introduction of test-optional policies at Yale. Later, the University was again forced to alter its admissions policies when the U.S. Supreme Court ended the practice of affirmative action in higher education in June 2023. However, other policies remained stagnant, such as legacy preference in admissions, despite state and student governmental pressures

During the 2020-21 academic year, Yale faced pressures to change admissions policies due to the emergence of the COVID-19 virus. Lockdowns and test center closures caused by the pandemic compromised access to standardized testing for many high school students, leading to changing attitudes around the use of the SAT and ACT to make college admissions decisions. In 2020, Yale decided to make admissions test optional.

Under Yale’s COVID-19 era test-optional policy, high school seniors could submit SAT or ACT scores “as they wish,” according to Jeremiah Quinlan, the dean of undergraduate admissions and financial aid.

“I know that students will have many priorities when schools eventually reopen; I believe that completing standardized tests in time for an upcoming application deadline should not be among them,” Quinlan told the News in 2020.

The test-optional policy remained for the next four application cycles, leading admissions officers to continue evaluating other metrics in their consideration of applicants.

In 2021, Yale faced pressure from the Yale College Council to end their legacy preference admissions practice. The YCC Senate passed a resolution on Oct. 17, 2021, condemning the preference of applicants with legacy in undergraduate admissions.  

“Elite schools began to employ legacy preference in the early twentieth century as a direct result of [anti-immigrant] and [antisemitic] discriminatory impulses,” the resolution asserted. “Today, the practice of legacy admissions continues to reinforce class inequity, hamper economic mobility and reproduce cycles of privilege.”

Despite student pressures, Quinlan defended the use of legacy admissions preferences.

The 2022-23 admissions cycle remained consistent with the previous two cycles, maintaining test-optional policies, affirmative action and legacy preference in undergraduate admissions. 

However, in 2023, the U.S. Supreme Court ended the use of affirmative action in higher education in a 6-2 vote, ruling against Harvard and the University of North Carolina in two separate rulings. The decision forced a changed policy for the 2023-24 admissions cycle. 

Among the changes included “extensive” training for admissions officers on how to evaluate applications without access to students’ self-identified racial identity, new essay prompts for applications and the incorporation of data from The Opportunity Atlas, an interactive tool that measures the relationship between geographic location and economic mobility.

“We still want to be attracting students from underrepresented backgrounds to Yale, even if the law around how we consider them in the process has changed,” Quinlan told the News in September 2023 in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision. 

While admissions officers no longer have access to students’ racial demographic data during the admissions process, the University can still access self-identified information after the process has concluded. The data is mostly used for Yale’s cultural centers and annual factsheet, Dean of Yale College Pericles Lewis said in October 2023.

Earlier this year, the University announced that it would resume requiring test scores for the 2024-25 admissions cycle. However, students will have options other than submitting SAT or ACT scores. Instead, applicants can opt to submit Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate test scores. At a minimum, applicants will submit one test type for consideration out of AP, IB, SAT or ACT scores. 

“We’re encouraged by the fact that we have had lots of experience admitting and enrolling very talented students from lower-income backgrounds in years when we are requiring test scores,” Mark Dunn ’07, senior associate director for outreach and recruitment at the admissions office, told the News.

Although Yale saw changes to standardized test scores and affirmative action in admissions from 2020 to 2024, legacy preference remained. 

In 2024, Yale opposed a state bill, SB 203, that would not allow public and private institutions in Connecticut to “inquire about or consider a prospective student’s familial relationship to a graduate of such institution” in the admissions process.

Yale has yet to see the impact of the end of affirmative action and test-optional admissions policies on incoming classes. 

The Office of Undergraduate Admissions is located at 38 Hillhouse Ave.

Molly Reinmann contributed reporting