A number of colleges around the country are temporarily loosening their standardized testing requirements amid the coronavirus pandemic. All eight Ivy League schools will be test-optional for the coming admissions cycle. Initially, this applied only to SAT and ACT exams. But more and more graduate schools have started accepting students without GMAT and GRE scores, as well.
U.S. schools reconsidered their application processes for the upcoming academic year because of the unfavorable consequences of COVID-19 coupled with stricter immigration policies toward foreign students, which adversely affected application rates.
Within the last month, several MBA programs, including the University of Virginia’s Darden School of Business and the Wisconsin School of Business, announced that they are willing to accept alternative evidence of strong academic merit instead of the GMAT or GRE.
It is important to be flexible in times of higher volatility and uncertainty caused by the pandemic, when some young people find themselves having to take care of a family member, said Darden School of Business Dean Scott Beardsley. There are more ways to evaluate graduate school applications than to simply rely on standardized test scores, he added.
“We have run analytics to see the best predictors of success, and standardized tests are not the greatest predictor of success in a Darden classroom,” said Beardsley. “We do know that academic rigor and excellence is a predictor. If someone has performed extremely well in undergrad at a good institution that is a predictor.”
Northeastern University has also decided to broaden its admissions criteria and allow prospective students for the 2021–22 academic year to apply with or without any standardized test results. “We are confident that the move to test-optional will result in an applicant pool that still reflects the depth of students’ academic records, contributions to their communities, and full range of experiences,” said Sundar Kumarasamy, vice president for enrollment management at Northeastern.
Jeremy Shinewald, an author of The Complete Start-to-Finish MBA Admissions Guide, said that if universities eliminate standardized tests as one of the requirements for admission, prospective students’ applications will become more about a candidate’s story. It will teach young people how to communicate their subjective strengths, such as their previous academic or work experience.
The change in the admission procedure will give people a chance to choose a set of documents they want to apply with. Those who have already taken a standardized test or feel comfortable doing so in the remote mode will be able to attach their score to the application. The others will have a possibility to show their performance through different means.
Blair Sanford, assistant dean for full-time MBA and master’s programs at the University of Wisconsin-Madison’s business school, estimates that after initially waiving GMAT requirements earlier this spring, fall enrollment will be up about 30 percent from last year.
There could be two potential reasons for increased enrollment. First of all, a great number of low-skill workers lost their jobs to the COVID-19 crisis. In times of uncertainty, the smartest thing one can do to secure the financial future is to invest in education. Second, standardized tests are always stressful, even more so when taken amid the pandemic that has already taken a heavy toll on young people’s mental health. The GRE and GMAT requirements waiver will give those people who did not want to experience more pressure a chance to attend graduate school.
The test-optional admission process seems like a win-win situation for both prospective students and higher education colleges. The adoption of a test-optional policy for the coming admission cycle may not only save young people’s mental health, but also keep graduate school programs open.