Ivy League Test-Optional Policy — TKG (2023)

The Ivy League has gone test-optional for 2022-2023. UPenn, Brown, Dartmouth, Princeton, and Yale have extended all extended their policies for 2023. Columbia and Cornell have extended their policies through 2024. Harvard has extended even further to 2026. Since extending test-optional policies is the hot trend for top colleges, let’s talk about it.

What is test-optional?

Just so we are all on the same page, a school being test-optional means you do not need to submit ACT/SAT scores to be considered for admission. Schools have promised that not submitting tests will not negatively impact your application, however, most of the schools that we will be talking about in this blog post have not released any data on how many students they have accepted without scores (schools if you are reading this, that data would really help our students DM us!).

While some schools have been test-optional for years, most schools have adopted these policies due to the pandemic. The pandemic has made it hard for some communities to access testing and so in a play for fairness, many top schools have adopted a test-optional policy for, at least, the time being.

So how long do we think that will be?

The Ivy league tends to stick together. When one does something, the others usually follow and Harvard extending this policy to 2026 is a good metric. They might not announce it this year, but other top schools will most likely announce next year that they are extending their test-optional policies as far out as Harvard. TLDR as long as one of the Ivies is extending the policy, the others probably will too.

(Video) IVY LEAGUES are TEST OPTIONAL!? | 3 tips from a yale student

However, we have a feeling that this policy might become permanent. There are two major reasons that we think this might happen, so let’s break them down.

1) It’s hard to go back

This policy has now been around for 2 years and will be around for another 3 in some cases. This means this policy will have been working for at least 5 years when Harvard can choose not to renew it. If something has been working well for 5 years, hopefully not all of them in a pandemic (PLEASE we can’t do 3 more years of this global panorama,) it’s hard to go back on it. Don’t get us wrong, test-optional policies could be scrapped as the world reopens, but we think a lot of schools will have seen that this policy works fine. The simple truth is it is hard to get rid of a popular policy that has been working.

But we think there is something else to this. Break out your tin foil hats, because we think there is something going on a little deeper here and we have a theory.

2) Follow the money

(Video) Are Ivy League Colleges Test Optional for YOU?

Two things have been rising across the Ivy League since the test-optional policy has been implemented: the number of applicants and the endowment.

The number of applicants is an important metric for a top school. The Ivies take around the same number of students every year no matter how many people apply. The only way they can keep competitive acceptance rates is to have high numbers of students apply. Generally, the more people apply, the lower the acceptance and thus the more competitive the school is to get into.

Let’s look at some numbers for the past few years:

*Columbia either did not publish their class statistics for 2023 or they have scrubbed it from the internet which, either way, is strange. Like you good Columbia?

We know it’s kind of a block of numbers. But the important trend is that while internally colleges had similar acceptance rates and applicant numbers for 2023 and 2024, for 2025 across the board every school had more applicants than they did in the past and thus a more competitive acceptance rate. Pretty much when schools went test-optional more people applied and thus the college is harder to get into.

And that makes sense. If you look at admissions statistics, most schools include what the average test scores are for the incoming class. For the Ivies, those numbers are really high. Seriously, we are talking for a middle 50% of an incoming class getting a 35-36 on the ACT in some cases. Students with good but not great test scores see this and often don’t apply because of it. Yes, test scores are only part of your application, but if you don’t have competitive test scores, in the past we would have advised you to skip schools like Harvard. However, now, that’s a more complicated conversation for a lot of students who have great grades and extracurriculars but so-so test scores. This type of student is thus inflating the applicant numbers for these schools.

Most schools won’t admit it, but they want to look as competitive as possible. Even if they aren’t taking a ton of these new test-optional applicants, their numbers are making the school look better. It sounds frivolous, but there might be something bigger to this too. This is where we should probably restate that this is just a theory of ours…. But, as schools get more competitive their endowment often gets bigger.

So what’s an endowment? In business words, it's an aggregation of assets invested by an institution that can be used for research, education, or the continued mission of the college through funding. In laymen’s terms, it’s a large amount of money that a college can grow through investments and donations. Colleges can use their endowments to finance projects like research, building new state-of-the-art buildings, etc. The Ivy Leagues have historically had pretty huge endowments, but they have all gotten bigger recently. Since 2018, a lot of them have shot up dramatically. There are a lot of reasons for this. These are investments and good investments do tend to grow on their own. However, endowments get money in them by donations.

(Video) First Ivy League school goes test-optional

Usually, these donations come from alums. There are other places donations come from, but alumni donations are super important. And being able to say you went to a super-competitive school is important to a lot of alumni. Think of Andy from The Office with his Cornell hat. Alums want to say they went to the most prestigious school and having a super low acceptance rate is often how they do that.

UPenn’s endowment for the 2020-2021 fiscal year is $20.5 billion. That is substantially larger than their endowment back in 2018 (before their test-optional policy) which was $14.7 billion. Brown went from $3.8 billion to $6.9 billion in the same time frame. Dartmouth’s endowment in 2018 was close to $5.5 billion, in 2020-2021 it was $8.5. Cornell was at $6.9 billion in 2018 but raised that to $10 billion. Columbia went from $10.9 billion to $14.35 billion.

Princeton’s endowment is around $37.7 billion which is 1) insane and 2) a lot more than their 2018 endowment of $25.9 billion (which for the record is also insane.) Keeping with the wildly high numbers, Yale turned $29.4 billion in 2018 to $42.3 billion.

And Harvard…. Well, Harvard already had the largest endowment in the league, but they took their 2018 endowment of $39.2 billion and pushed it to the staggering $53.2 billion in the 2020 fiscal year.

These numbers are giant and honestly kind of hard to even comprehend, but as applications have gone up across the board so have they. Hey, it might be purely correlative, but we think it’s a factor. And maybe it’s none of our business, but we are in this business.

(Video) How to get into an Ivy League school, increase your chances with data-driven tips

Who are we to say? Well, we are a highly trained team of people who’ve done a ton of research into the Ivy League… Still, we can’t prove that keeping schools test-optional has made it easier for schools to use lower acceptance rates to push alums to pad their endowments… but we aren’t not saying that. Do we think schools will keep this policy around longer because it’s good for them? Professionally, we do.

The good news here is test-optional policies can really help some students. While we worry that some of those students are probably athletes and legacies and not just students who aren’t able to get tested due to a global pandemic but otherwise would have crushed their ACTs, the policies are popular. If a popular policy helps you pad your endowment, so be it. We just thought it was an interesting correlation and if you have made it to the end of this blog, we think you did too.

Need help getting to the school of your Ivy League dreams? We can also help with that! Reach out here.

(Video) Test Optional: Who Does it Hurt?


1. 3 Harvard Admissions Officers Answer Your Test-Optional + Standardized Test Questions
(Harvard College Admissions & Financial Aid)
2. All Ivy League Colleges Go Test-Optional Until 2023 | What Does This Mean?
3. How I got accepted into Dartmouth*Ivy league |test optional |Personal statements
4. How to get into Ivy League Colleges | 2023 College Admissions Explained
(Alyssa the College Expert)
5. Ivy League College Admissions: How to stand out to Ivy Leagues and Top Tier Colleges
(Command Education)
(Vanakkam Germany)
Top Articles
Latest Posts
Article information

Author: Chrissy Homenick

Last Updated: 06/14/2023

Views: 6133

Rating: 4.3 / 5 (54 voted)

Reviews: 85% of readers found this page helpful

Author information

Name: Chrissy Homenick

Birthday: 2001-10-22

Address: 611 Kuhn Oval, Feltonbury, NY 02783-3818

Phone: +96619177651654

Job: Mining Representative

Hobby: amateur radio, Sculling, Knife making, Gardening, Watching movies, Gunsmithing, Video gaming

Introduction: My name is Chrissy Homenick, I am a tender, funny, determined, tender, glorious, fancy, enthusiastic person who loves writing and wants to share my knowledge and understanding with you.