Columbia, William & Mary Now Have Permanent Test-Optional Admissions

Students applying to either of the two schools will not be at a disadvantage if they don't submit test scores.
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  • Students who do not submit ACT and SAT scores will not be at a disadvantage.
  • Testing policies remain the same for students who wish to submit scores.
  • William & Mary found similarities in retention and GPA from students who submit tests and those who don't.

Students who don't want to take the SAT or ACT have as good a chance at getting into Columbia University and William & Mary (W&M) as any other applicant.

The respective institutions announced last week that each will move forward with test-optional undergraduate admissions policies. Students will not be at a disadvantage if they do not turn in test scores.

Standardized testing is optional for the undergraduate Columbia College and engineering and applied sciences school enrollment. The university said it believes its students cannot be defined by one factor.

"Our review is purposeful and nuanced — respecting varied backgrounds, voices and experiences — in order to best determine an applicant's suitability for admission and ability to thrive in our curriculum and our community, and to advance access to our educational opportunities," Columbia said on its website.

"We have designed our application to afford the greatest possible opportunity and flexibility for students to represent themselves fully and showcase their academic talents, interests and goals."

Columbia said its test policies remain the same for students who want to submit scores.

William & Mary Goes Test-Optional After Pilot Success

William & Mary decided to go test-optional after a "highly effective" three-year pilot program started due to the COVID-19 pandemic in 2020. In the first cohort of students after the program launch, 39% did not submit test scores. In the latest cohort in fall 2022, 34% of enrolling students did not submit test scores.

W&M compared the first cohort of test-optional and test-submitted students and found that both groups had similar GPAs and around a 95% retention rate.

"William & Mary enrolls the brightest, most creative and most inquisitive students, who in turn advance the university's culture and experience," W&M Provost Peggy Agouris said. "Adopting test-optional admissions policy past the pilot period helps ensure that applicants are able to highlight their strongest possible contributions to William & Mary, knowing that our remarkable faculty will encourage them to reach their fullest potential."

W&M clarified that the university is not test-blind, and any student who submits test scores will have them included in their holistic review. The university recommends applying with test scores if students believe the scores strongly reflect their academic ability and provides average scores of enrolled students for reference.

"Whether or not they applied with standardized test scores, we are confident students admitted to William & Mary are prepared to succeed in the classroom and make an impact on our campus and beyond," said Tim Wolfe, associate vice president for enrollment and dean of admission.