NEW YORK — What does it take for an ambitious high school student to get into the college of their dreams? Admissions officers of prominent institutions meticulously review thousands of applications each year, considering various factors including personal statements, extracurricular activities, high school grades, and standardized tests like the SAT and ACT. Since the SATs establishment in 1926 and the ACTs in 1959, standardized test scores have been crucial for colleges to evaluate the strength of their applicants. 

However, the recent Coronavirus pandemic has led many to cast doubt on the effectiveness of standardized test scores as indicators of academic prowess. In light of this newfound controversy, the nation’s top colleges and universities have started to deviate from relying solely on SAT/ACT scores during the admissions process.

On April 11, 2023, as per a public memorandum, the State University of New York (SUNY) board of trustees voted unanimously to drop the SAT and ACT test requirement, giving students the option to withhold their scores when applying to any of the SUNY’s four-year undergraduate colleges. 

The State University of New York is the largest comprehensive system of public colleges and universities in the United States, comprised of 64 campuses throughout New York State. SUNY’s institutions include research universities, academic medical centers, liberal ats colleges, community colleges, colleges of technology, and an online learning network serving nearly 1.3 million students.

In an interview with Spectrum Local News, SUNY Brockport director Robert Wyant explained that this change in approach forces admissions officers to delve deeper into applicants’ profiles. “It actually requires us to look into more things like a core average, like a Regent’s [sic] average, like their participation in high school activities, extracurricular activities, stuff like that. So it really made us dive into the whole application on a much deeper level, and it allows us to know and understand our applicants in a more detailed setting,” he said.

Colleges and universities have recognized the value of an applicant’s unique experiences and achievements beyond standardized test scores. With over 80% of colleges and universities in the US operating under test-optional policies, now including all CUNY and SUNY schools in New York, there is a growing emphasis on diversity and inclusion. These institutions actively seek candidates who can enrich the campus environment through their diverse perspectives, backgrounds, and experiences. Notably, some institutions, like those in the University of California system, have even fully eliminated standardized test scores from the admissions process.

Admissions officers have embraced a holistic approach to admission, prioritizing personal statements, extracurricular activities, leadership roles, letters of recommendation, and interviews. This comprehensive evaluation approach aims to understand the applicant’s character, abilities, and potential contributions to the campus community.

Moreover, the transition towards a holistic admissions approach has encouraged applicants to prioritize passion projects. These projects play a vital role in showcasing personal interests and dedication to a specific field. They can include various endeavors such as research initiatives, creative pursuits, community service activities, entrepreneurial ventures, or any other undertakings that demonstrate a student’s drive, initiative, and commitment.

The evolving landscape of college admissions, characterized by the rise of test-optional policies and a focus on holistic evaluations, will significantly impact students applying in the future. The reduced reliance on standardized test scores allows students the flexibility to decide whether to submit them, enabling them to highlight their strengths beyond test performance. 

Students can adapt by focusing on personal growth, pursuing meaningful experiences, and authentically presenting themselves in their applications. 

While standardized test scores still hold some importance for many institutions, the growing trend of test-optional policies and the increasing weight placed on holistic evaluations provide students with opportunities to develop well-rounded profiles. 

By pursuing their passions, engaging in meaningful extracurricular activities, and demonstrating personal growth, high school students may enhance their chances of gaining admission to the college of their dreams.

Edited by Jared Scott, Nikita Osadchiy & Aidan Etkin.
Photo credits to Chalkbeat.

If you’d like to send us a tip or contribute to the paper contact us at or