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Dartmouth reinstates the SAT — and others might follow

In a significant revelation, economists from Dartmouth College have uncovered compelling evidence suggesting that standardized test scores remain a robust predictor of student success at the institution. This finding comes amidst a nationwide debate over the efficacy and fairness of standardized testing in college admissions, particularly during the COVID-19 pandemic.


Dartmouth, along with numerous other academic institutions, temporarily suspended the requirement for SAT/ACT scores during the pandemic. However, the recent study conducted by Dartmouth economists casts doubt on the wisdom of this decision. According to their research, which analyzed the academic performance of students over several years, test scores serve as a reliable indicator of how well individuals will fare academically at the prestigious Ivy League institution.


The implications of this discovery are profound, particularly in the context of efforts to promote diversity and equity in higher education. It has been widely argued that standardized testing disproportionately places students from marginalized backgrounds, including racial minorities and those from low-income families, at a disadvantage in the admissions process. Consequently, many colleges and universities, including Dartmouth, have moved to make standardized tests optional or eliminate them altogether from their admissions criteria.


However, the Dartmouth economists' findings shed new light on this issue. In particular, they suggest that, by removing the SAT requirement, institutions inadvertently harm minority groups. Minority students, believing their scores to be too low, may choose not to submit them, unaware that doing so could actually improve their chances of admission, particularly if they come from disadvantaged backgrounds.


This phenomenon highlights a crucial aspect of the broader debate surrounding standardized testing: the unintended consequences of well-intentioned policies. While the goal of eliminating standardized testing is to level the playing field and increase access to higher education for underrepresented groups, the reality may be more complex.


In response to these findings, Dartmouth is reevaluating its testing policy. While acknowledging that reinstating the SAT requirement may decrease the number of applicants, the institution believes it is necessary to ensure fairness and accuracy in the admissions process. By providing prospective students with all available information, including test scores, Dartmouth aims to empower individuals to make informed decisions about their applications.


These implications extend beyond Dartmouth's campus, sparking larger discussions about the role of standardized testing in admissions. Critics argue that reliance on test scores perpetuates inequality and fails to capture the full potential of students. However, proponents contend that standardized tests offer valuable insights into academic readiness and provide a benchmark for evaluating applicants.


As colleges and universities grapple with these complex issues, the debate over standardized testing in admissions is likely to intensify. The study conducted by economists over at Dartmouth serves as a timely reminder of the importance of balancing competing priorities in pursuit of educational equity and excellence. A more pressing question left unanswered, however, pertains to the individual perspectives of candidates applying to Dartmouth for the 2025 admissions cycle. 

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