A note to prospective applicants from our director of undergraduate admission, Liz Kinsley:

In a blog post earlier this month, I wrote to affirm that we’re staying mindful of your current context—incidents of racial injustice against black Americans, continued protests, an ongoing global pandemic—and will read your applications fairly in light of these historic circumstances.

Access to standardized testing has become another important consideration this spring. In an April post, I stated we would monitor the testing situation and modify guidance if necessary. It is now clear that fall test dates may not be open to all students who wish to register, especially in densely populated areas hit hardest by the pandemic where social distancing measures will limit capacity. And plans for an “at-home” test option have halted, as it would require internet capabilities beyond what many students have available. As these hurdles are matters of equity, Northwestern will adopt a test-optional policy for the 2020–21 admission cycle.

We imagine it is becoming difficult to parse the variations of test-optional unfolding across the college admissions landscape: is it advisable to send scores if you have them? How will schools treat external exams like Advanced Placement (AP) or International Baccalaureate (IB)? Will a college review subject-based tests? And so on. You can visit our online FAQs for specifics on how to approach your Northwestern application, but the bottom line is simple: Northwestern applications for the coming cycle can stand strong without any external exam scores. Indeed, we recognize the widely used term “test-optional” is somewhat of a misnomer right now, as tests may not be an option this year for many of our prospective students.

With or without test scores, Northwestern’s review process will remain grounded in a holistic approach coupled with a commitment to college access. We will continue to evaluate your academic and intellectual fit for Northwestern as we always have: through a comprehensive assessment of your grades, course rigor, recommendations, academic honors or awards, personal essays, and other information specific to your own experiences and high school setting.

Holistic review means we connect the dots between different parts of your application and make our best judgement based on the picture that emerges. For some of you this year, those dots will not include test scores. Indeed, many “dots” will look different in light of the pandemic: disrupted courses, pass/no pass grades, extracurricular commitments put on hold, unforeseen family circumstances, and more. Rest assured, we will nevertheless bring your full picture into view, assessing your application thoughtfully and fairly given all available information and context. As my April blog, “Some Reassurance Amidst the Covid-19 Pandemic,” discusses at length, our holistic process is built to weigh the diversity of circumstances you’re experiencing during these unprecedented times.

For now, we wish you a safe and healthy summer, and look forward to connecting through one of our many live digital tours, student-to-student conversations, panels, and Q&As.

12 thoughts on “Our Modified Testing Policy in Response to COVID-19”

  1. Hi,

    Is NU HPME also going test optional with respect to SAT/ACT and SAT subject tests?

    Thank you
    Riya M.

    1. Hi Kathy. Thanks for your question. As stated above, our modified testing policy is in place for applicants applying for a spot in our first-year class during the 2020-2021 admission cycle. Those students applying this cycle would be applying for a spot in our first year class and matriculate to the University during the 2021-2022 school year.

  2. Thank you much for this decision.
    My ACT was canceled this month and I am not sure if my test center won’t cancel it again. We are privileged to apply to a college that is willing to analyze what is happening around us and makes a reassuring decision to applicants who now worry about the application process, the so many things they have planned to do before they were surrounded by this pandemic. Thank you again. I am happy I have decided to apply to Northwesten.

  3. Hi Ms. Kinsley,

    Thank you so much for publishing this blog post. It really clarifies your policies. As asked above, I was also hoping for greater clarification regarding HPME testing policies.

    Thank you,

    Isha Shah

  4. To address your questions Riya and Isha, HPME’s test requirements currently remain the same. You should visit the HPME website for the most up-to-date information regarding their application requirements.

  5. Have there been any decisions made about the 21-22 school year and ACT/SAT scores being needed on an application? I have a senior in high school and don’t see any advise about the upcoming school year as she would like to apply for the early decision period.
    Thank you.

    1. Hi Angie,

      Thanks for your question. We’re glad your daughter is considering an early decision application for next fall! At this point, we have not announced any decisions for the 2021-22 admission cycle.

    1. Hi Yasmin,

      Yes, this cycle’s test optional policy does apply to international applicants: you may send an SAT or ACT score if you wish, but it is not required.

      That said, International applicants whose first language is not English, and whose high school courses were conducted in a language other than English, will still need to submit one of three English proficiency exams: the TOEFL iBT, IELTS (both of which are offering online, at-home options in light of the pandemic), or, new for us this year, the online Duolingo English Test, a globally accessible at-home option.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *