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Columbia is first Ivy League to permanently drop SAT, ACT requirements

The school's pandemic-era hold on standardized testing will be the new norm for applicants.
Students relax on the front steps of Low Memorial Library on the Columbia University campus.
Posted at 5:14 PM, Mar 03, 2023

Columbia University is one of the world’s most prestigious and well-known universities. Located in New York City, the Ivy League school has a long history of academic excellence that dates back to its founding in 1754. For centuries, it has been known for its groundbreaking research, exceptional teaching staff and diverse student body. 

And now, Columbia has become the first Ivy League school to permanently drop its SAT and ACT requirement for undergraduate applicants.

The university recently announced that going forward, it would no longer require prospective undergraduate students to take the SAT or ACT to be considered for admission.

In 2020, Columbia University temporarily dropped its SAT or ACT requirement for undergraduate applicants due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as did other Ivy League schools. The school has continued this policy since, extending it through the 2023-2024 academic year in February 2022, according to the Columbia Spectator, the university’s student newspaper.

a student looks at questions during a college test preparation class at Holton Arms School in Bethesda, Md.

Why some schools are rethinking standardized tests

Scores have typically been used as key factors not only in college admissions, but scholarship opportunities, too. But COVID shutdowns made it harder.


The decision was made in response to research showing that these test scores do not necessarily indicate student college success. It also reflects a growing trend among universities across the country that are shifting away from traditional admissions criteria and instead focusing on holistic evaluations of applicants.

Columbia University’s admissions process emphasizes a “holistic and contextual” approach, considering multiple factors before acceptance. This includes the academic strength of applicants, which is assessed by looking at standardized test scores as well as GPA, course rigor, application essays, letters of recommendation and class rank — all of which are considered to be “very important,” according to the Common Data Set that the school released in September 2020.

Harvard said it won’t require applicants to submit SAT or ACT scores through 2026, and all eight Ivy League universities previously dropped the SAT/ACT requirement for Class of 2025 admissions.

It’s important to note that while SAT or ACT scores are no longer required for admission at Columbia, students can submit them as part of an application if desired. However, students who submit test scores will not have an advantage over those who do not. Additionally, Columbia still requires applicants to submit high school transcripts and letters of recommendation as part of their application process.