Penn State announces extension of test-optional admissions process through 2023

January 19, 2021

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For high school students faced with the challenge of applying for college in a pandemic, Penn State's decision to extend, for two years, the optional submission of SAT and ACT scores may alleviate some anxiety. First-year applicants to Penn State will be able to choose whether to submit SAT or ACT scores as part of their applications through Summer/Fall 2023.

“Test cancellations during the pandemic have upended many students’ testing strategies. We have heard from many students, parents and high school counselors that this is placing a great deal of stress on applicants,” said Rob Springall, assistant vice president for Undergraduate Education and executive director of Undergraduate Admissions. “By making the SAT and ACT tests optional for an additional two admissions cycles, we hope to alleviate some of the anxiety students are feeling.”

The SAT and ACT are administered as in-person tests at high schools across the country and at testing sites around the world, and testing schedules at many locations have been disrupted or canceled entirely since March 2020. This has impacted not only high school students who are nearing graduation, but also younger students whose testing strategies include early practice tests. Penn State’s test-optional process will allow applicants to elect whether or not to submit test scores as part of their applications and to change their minds up to the point of receiving their admissions decisions.

Since Penn State implemented a test-optional process for the current admissions cycle, the option has proven extremely popular among applicants. As of Dec. 1, among first-year applicants applying for entry in Summer/Fall 2021, the option to not submit test scores has been selected by nearly 58% of all applicants and more than 67% of applicants applying to a Commonwealth Campus as first choice.

In the absence of test scores, Penn State considers other academic factors in its admissions decisions. Springall explained that Penn State has always weighed test scores less heavily than high school performance, since the latter tends to be a better predictor of a student’s success at Penn State.

For students who opt not to submit test scores, Penn State looks at the student’s academic record in high school, with special focus on the academic areas that relate to their intended major. For students who have not declared a major, the admissions team looks at the student’s overall academic performance in high school.

The test-optional program may be especially beneficial for select student populations, explained Yvonne Gaudelius, interim vice president and dean for Undergraduate Education.

“We hope that, by making the SAT and ACT optional for the next two admissions cycles, we can aid the ability of all students, but especially first-generation students and students from under-represented backgrounds, to apply to Penn State during the pandemic,” said Gaudelius.

Among students seeking entry in Summer/Fall 2021, the option not to submit test scores has proven especially popular among first-generation students and students from under-represented racial and ethnic groups, Gaudelius explained.

Findings during the test-optional period may influence how Penn State approaches admissions in the future. In the summer of 2022, after the first test-optional class has completed one full year at Penn State, the University will examine these students’ college performance to measure the utility of test scores in its admissions decision-making. The findings may reshape how Penn State utilizes test scores in its admissions process on a more permanent basis.

Penn State’s volume of undergraduate applications has remained strong during the pandemic. During the current (Summer/Fall 2021) admissions cycle, applications are up by 8% University-wide and 11% at the University Park campus, as compared to last year.

Undergraduate Admissions is part of Penn State Undergraduate Education, the academic administrative unit that provides leadership and coordination for University-wide programs and initiatives in support of undergraduate teaching and learning at Penn State. Learn more about Undergraduate Education at undergrad.psu.edu.

Last Updated January 28, 2021