In a bold move that sent shockwaves across the highly selective college admissions landscape, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology announced today that the school is reinstating its SAT/ACT requirement for admission. This will apply to future admissions cycles, including for next year’s applicants to the MIT Class of 2027. In the spring of 2020, MIT, like most highly selective universities, made the SAT and ACT optional in admissions since many students across America and around the world couldn’t sit for the SAT or ACT due to the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic. These universities remained test-optional for the 2021-2022 admissions cycle and many have announced extensions of their test-optional policies through next year. Some have even extended their test-optional admissions policies for the next few years. But MIT has opted instead to march to the beat of its own drum by declaring that applicants will need to submit an SAT or ACT to get in.
As MIT’s longtime Dean of Admissions and Student Financial Services Stu Schmill writes on MIT’s admissions site in a post entitled “We are reinstating our SAT/ACT requirement for future admissions cycles,” “After careful consideration, we have decided to reinstate our SAT/ACT requirement for future admissions cycles. Our research shows standardized tests help us better assess the academic preparedness of all applicants, and also help us identify socioeconomically disadvantaged students who lack access to advanced coursework or other enrichment opportunities that would otherwise demonstrate their readiness for MIT. We believe a requirement is more equitable and transparent than a test-optional policy.”
And why is MIT reinstating the SAT/ACT requirement? The research institution…did its research. As Dean Schmill writes, “Within our office, we have a dedicated research and analysis team that continuously studies our processes, outcomes, and criteria to make sure we remain mission-driven and student-centered. During the pandemic, we redoubled our efforts to understand how we can best evaluate academic readiness for all students, particularly those most impacted by its attendant disruptions. To briefly summarize a great deal of careful research: our ability to accurately predict student academic success at MIT is significantly improved by considering standardized testing — especially in mathematics — alongside other factors. Some standardized exams besides the SAT/ACT can help us evaluate readiness, but access to these other exams is generally more socioeconomically restricted relative to the SAT/ACT. As a result, not having SATs/ACT scores to consider tends to raise socioeconomic barriers to demonstrating readiness for our education.”
We salute MIT for bravely marching to the beat of its own drum. It’s an unpopular choice these days to require students to sit and take a standardized exam like the SAT or ACT and it will lead some applicants to not submit applications to the university. But MIT made the choice, based on the research, in spite of any potential backlash. It sure will be interesting to see if other elite universities soon follow the school’s lead. The folks at College Board and ACT, Inc. will be watching with bated breath.
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