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End of Test Optional Part 2: Stanford to require ACT or SAT for Fall 2025 applicants

Earlier this spring, we at MyGuru declared that test optional college admission policies were coming to an end for high school students applying to top American universities. As part of the upcoming 2024-25 application cycle beginning this fall, most of the Ivy League and a notable number of elite universities across the United States are once again requiring an ACT or SAT score. Now, Stanford has quietly announced (in a classic Friday news dump) that it too will be reinstating a standardized testing requirement for undergraduate applicants, but beginning in 2025, making this the final test optional application cycle for the Cardinal. This particular decision is important for two reasons:

  1. It pushes the timeframe for application policy changes back a year
  2. It puts Stanford in direct opposition to its California public university rivals

Application policies likely set for class of 2029

MyGuru has already said that all high schoolers planning to attend college should take either the ACT or SAT. While the majority of colleges across the United States are still going to be test optional for the impending 2024-25 application cycle, there are enough private (ie. Harvard or Caltech) and public (ie. University of Texas at Austin or University of Florida) exceptions that we recommend all 2024 rising juniors or seniors take the ACT or SAT so as to not be surprised should a school they would like to apply to require them to submit a standardized test score. Students can do so on any of the following testing dates:

  • July 13 (ACT)
  • August 24 (SAT)
  • September 14 (ACT)
  • October 5 (SAT)
  • October 26 (ACT)
  • November 2 (SAT)
  • December 7 (SAT)
  • December 14 (ACT)

Of course, always visit College Board or ACT online directly to confirm the most up to date test dates and registration deadlines.

The good news for all high school students is that Stanford enacting this change for the incoming class of 2030 will likely freeze testing policies for the incoming class of 2029. This means that as of June 10, 2024, we believe that it is exceedingly unlikely that any colleges or universities in the United States will change their application policies for the 2024-25 application cycle.

University of CalIFORNIA & Cal-State University Test-Blind Policies becoming more Isolated

Higher education has always been a political issue, and that is as true now as ever. For better or worse, progressive politics in the most populous state may have led to both the University of California and the California State University systems leaping before looking when it came to the issue of requiring standardized tests as part of undergraduate college applications. While the goal of creating a more equitable application and admissions process may be admirable, each of the schools that have reinstated testing requirements have produced data showing that ACT and SAT scores are in fact one of the least biased aspects of a high school student's college application. For those of us who have been following admissions for decades this makes sense as ACT and SAT scores have actually dipped in the past half decade, while weighted GPAs have led to unparalleled grade inflation at the country's top public, and more tellingly, private high schools.

The vast majority of the remaining test-blind universities for the 2024-25 application cycle are located in California, and this is not coincidental. In 2020, a judge's ruling required the suspension of testing requirements for the University of California system and mandated that those tests no longer be used at all, thereby creating the first major test-blind application process. At the time, the decision was heralded by many as a major blow for equity in college admissions.

Now, however, the University of California and Cal State University systems finds themselves in direct opposition to the most selective private college in the state, Stanford and Caltech, as each will soon each require a score that can't even be used to apply to UCLA or Cal Poly - San Luis Obispo. This reality could persuade high school students possessing high ACT or SAT scores to simply not apply to University of California or Cal State schools simply because they cannot use one of their top assets on those specific applications. Fair or not, these schools may even begin to appear less elite because their applicants aren't required to submit a score that many do believe correlates to college readiness on some level.

test-Blind schools outside of California

Arguably the biggest change in the 2024 return to standardized testing was made at Caltech in Pasadena, where administrators bypassed the ambiguity of test-optional admissions entirely. In 2020, the California Institute of Technology went test-blind partially in response to the COVID-19 pandemic and extended that policy in 2022 to study the validity of using test scores in admissions. After that four-year period, Caltech found that these scores do play a valuable role in a holistic admissions process and referenced that directly in their announcement reinstating their ACT and/or SAT score requirement.

Outside California, certain other public universities also went test-blind including Northern Illinois University and Washington State University. For the upcoming 2024-25 application cycle WSU is still not considering applicant test scores, while NIU has indicated it will also not use scores for admissions but has a clear caveat stating students "may need to provide your ACT or SAT score for certain other competitive scholarships." Each of these schools is not bound to the court decision in California though and could be important barometers to follow to see whether test-blind admissions have a viable future beyond the Golden State.

Turn Your ACT or SAT Requirement into an Application Opportunity

Free resources for the Digital SAT from Khan Academy or the ACT online are available to ambitious students of all backgrounds and we at MyGuru are always available for a complimentary consultation to discuss how any student can improve on these exams. This summer every rising junior or senior should also take a free diagnostic ACT and Digital SAT to determine which test is best for them. Of course, at any time you can request an expert MyGuru tutor to be guided by a true test prep expert!