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photo by Miles Colescott '25

Tried and True: Haverford Goes Permanently Test-Optional

Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic over three years ago, college admissions offices at Haverford and throughout the country have been grappling with issues of equitability. 

On November 2nd, 2022, Haverford’s Communications department announced that the College no longer requires prospective students to provide standardized test scores with their application. In doing so, Haverford joins a growing list of colleges and universities that have permanently extended their COVID-19 test-optional policies in order to increase application accessibility and student-body diversity.

When the COVID-19 pandemic hit in 2020, many institutions, including Haverford, chose to experiment with a test-optional policy for a three-year period, as both a response to the pandemic and controversies surrounding standardized testing. The admissions committee hoped to both eliminate stress during the pandemic and to better foster a “diverse, talented, and dynamic community” of students. In a video published by Haverford College in 2021, Director of Admissions Kathleen Abels stated that “There are racist and classist issues associated with standardized testing.”

Additionally, the committee admitted that prior to this change, standardized testing only constituted a small portion of an applicant’s holistic profile, so choosing not to submit a test score would not take away from an application. Other aspects of the application, like a student’s transcript, which contains years worth of information, are much more valuable to the committee.

Current Haverford students certainly took advantage of the pilot test-optional program when applying. One year after the test-optional pilot program went into effect, the number of matriculating students submitting test scores decreased by approximately 50%. Applicants may choose not to submit a test score for a variety of reasons, including if their score was lower than the college’s average or simply because they chose not (or were not able to) to take the test.  

The decision to extend test-optional policies past the pandemic is a growing trend throughout the country. Although Bryn Mawr College has been test-optional since 2014, Swarthmore College recently extended the policy for an additional three years, up until the Class of 2029. Most recently, on March 3rd 2023, Columbia University became the first Ivy League school to go permanently test-optional. 

Even some students who choose to submit test scores view going test-optional as a positive change. According to Eshal Asim ‘26, the new policy is “really great, because a test score isn’t an accurate representation of someone’s intelligence and what they have to offer. The test-optional policy allows those who feel that their strengths lie elsewhere, to display those in their application. For others who feel that their test score is something that will add to their application, the policy accommodates for that. It’s a great way to encourage applicants to apply regardless of their test score.”

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