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The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
Since 1888
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.
The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University

The Vanderbilt Hustler

The official student newspaper of Vanderbilt University.

Vanderbilt extends test-optional policy for applicants seeking entry through Fall 2027

Students applying to join Vanderbilt’s first-year or transfer entering Classes of 2025, 2026 or 2027 are not required to submit ACT or SAT scores.
Miguel Beristain
The entrance to Vanderbilt’s Offices of Undergraduate Admissions and Student Financial Aid, as photographed on July 6, 2023. (Hustler Multimedia/Miguel Beristain)

Vanderbilt’s test-optional policy will continue for the prospective first-year and transfer entering Classes of 2025, 2026 and 2027, allowing students to apply without submitting SAT or ACT scores. 

Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid Douglas Christiansen explained that the test-optional policy was initially implemented for the entering Class of 2021. This policy was put in place to accommodate students who were unable to take a standardized test due to difficulties brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. 

The policy was extended to the entering Class of 2022 for the same reasons. Christiansen stated that the decision to re-extend the policy through the entering Class of 2027 was instead due to existing statistical information and a desire for continued analysis of post-graduation outcomes and academic performance.

“A portion of [the most recent extension] was still the slight sense of the testing centers not being open,” Christiansen said. “But really, we wanted to have more information about the effect on [the] performance of students who took the test or didn’t take the test.”

Christiansen is co-chair of the Admissions Research Consortium, a group of 70 institutions around the country investigating post-COVID-19 undergraduate application and performance metrics. Such metrics include annual retention through graduation and differences in academic performance between students who do and do not submit testing. Christiansen stated that students are earning similar GPAs regardless of whether they submitted test scores.

“We’ve made the decision to look at this in a very research-oriented fashion by understanding what’s happening with our students receiving the delayed effects of the pandemic,” Christiansen said.

Christiansen also explained that research shows that transcripts serve as a better predictor of a student’s success than standardized test scores. 

“The transcript is really the better predictor individually because it’s four years of trying to understand the student versus a two-hour test,” Christiansen said. 

He said the percentage of applicants who did and did not submit testing was similar in the entering Classes of 2023 and 2024, at around 53% and 47%, respectively. For the entering Class of 2023, Christiansen said the percentage of students enrolling at Vanderbilt was nearly even across those who did and did not submit test scores.

“We’re trying to balance very carefully that you’re not favored or disfavored if you turn in or you don’t turn in testing,” Christiansen said. 

Christiansen added that the Office of Undergraduate Admissions has been working closely with high school counselors and students to emphasize that testing can be submitted if desired. He further explained that the test-optional policy is more inclusive for prospective applicants of all backgrounds, particularly those unable to travel to testing centers or afford additional tutoring.

“The policy helped with all forms of diversity — race, ethnicity, geographic diversity, socioeconomic diversity, first-generation [students] and diversity of interests in Vanderbilt’s course offerings,” Christiansen said.

First-year Puspa Shah, who opted not to submit testing, said she believes the test-optional policy provides a more equitable application cycle for students. 

“There are countless students who do not have the resources to afford these standardized tests, let alone resources to study for them,” Shah said. 

First-year Ava Hatfield, who submitted testing, believes submitting her SAT did not impact her chances of admission significantly because she felt the score was redundant to what her application already conveyed. 

“I think submitting scores can only have a positive impact if the prospective student lacks in other academic areas and their score elevates their application,” Hatfield said. “Other than that, it seems that test scores are somewhat irrelevant.”

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About the Contributors
Swarada Kulkarni
Swarada Kulkarni, Staff Writer
Swarada Kulkarni (‘27) is majoring in neuroscience in the College of Arts and Science. Outside of writing for The Hustler, she enjoys singing, reading books and exploring new restaurants with her friends. She can be reached at [email protected].
Miguel Beristain
Miguel Beristain, Senior Staff Photographer
Miguel Beristain (’24) is a philosophy and cellular and molecular biology double major in the College of Arts and Science from Murfreesboro, Tennessee. When not shooting for The Hustler, he can usually be found playing Magic the Gathering, exploring new restaurants or practicing guitar. He can be reached at .
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Comments (5)

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Jay S in Georgia
2 months ago

Vandy needs to get with the program and focus on merit before it gets the bad press of Harvard, Yale, etc. Stop this business of letting people in from high schools that let students pad their resumes with grade inflation and activities that are more fantasy than reality. The standardized tests are the great equalizers. For those who don’t like legacy admissions, they help keep those down as well.

VU 23
2 months ago

This is a decision Vanderbilt will likely come to regret. The data is pretty clear – standardized test scores are a much, much, much better predictor of student success than GPA. When Christiansen says, “ The transcript is really the better predictor,” this is something that he *knows* is a lie! That’s a pretty alarming statement right there… The research has already been done on this, and it’s not even close. It’s baffling that he would say something like this; he’s perpetuating an unscientific, politicized lie. Very intentionally. This article doesn’t include a single fact that supports this decision, and indeed Christiansen even indicates that they are running this like a controlled experiment rather than doing it to actually benefit any student. But experiments have already be done, and show that he is wrong. When admissions flies blind without test scores like this, they are going to admit more students who are not going to succeed at Vanderbilt. Period.

If you think about it for 2 seconds, the idea that this is actually about equity and diversity completely breaks down. Without a test score, what do they use to compare 2 applicants? Extracurriculars and GPA. Won’t a 4.0 at an elite high school be valued more than a 4.0 at a rural or inner city school that has never sent a kid to Vanderbilt? Grade inflation across the country has made comparing GPA useless. And aren’t extracurriculars *heavily* linked to income? Students who attend poor high schools and don’t have the time/money to do piano lessons and a sport literally NEED their test score to keep their application alive. The notion that “expensive standardized test prep” is a barrier for these kids ignores the fact that these other barriers are far more difficult to overcome, as well as the fact that there are tons of free and inexpensive resources for test prep.

Other schools, like Dartmouth and Georgetown, have already realized that these policies are actually actively detrimental to equity. It is absolutely, positively insane that Vanderbilt is apparently going to wait *years* to join them. We don’t “need more data.” We already have the data! This is a dishonest decision that was made with zero foresight, transparently designed to pump up application rates to artificially deflate the acceptance rate, and create an illusion of equity based on a current popular idea of what that looks like, even though many academics are starting to reach definitive conclusions that these policies are actually seriously harmful to low-income students. If Vanderbilt really does follow through on this plan, we will be gravely behind the curve when we finally ditch it in 2028.

2 months ago
Reply to  VU 23

Vanderbilt is not for everyone. The only criteria for admission should be individual merit. That is proven with test scores, grades, extra curricular activities, recommendations, potential, etc. Ethnicity and pronouns should not matter. Individual merit should matter. Diversity is not strength. Merit is.

George Albu
2 months ago

I honestly agree that going test-optional is a great step forward for Vandy admissions.

2 months ago

We need more students with scholastic disabilities in order to make our campus more diverse.