How Cornell and Georgetown Have Just Changed Their Admissions Policies

admission policies at Cornell and Georgetown

One never knows when a college will change a procedure or its admissions requirements. That’s why I have to be nimble and aware of what’s happening in college admissions, because things do change, even in the middle of application season. Take this year, for example. 

Cornell University, which for years required students to submit SAT subject tests for some of its undergraduate colleges, has just changed its policy. Now, subject tests are no longer required for all of Cornell’s undergraduate schools and colleges except for Engineering. For that school, subject tests scores are optional. Apparently, this move has been contemplated at Cornell for some time.

The number of US schools that now require subject tests for all applicants has whittled down to a very small list that includes Cal Tech, Harvey Mudd, and MIT, all schools that are identified with science and engineering. There still are schools in which some special programs, like Northwestern University’s Integrated Science and Engineering Program, require subject tests. And international schools also may require US students to submit subject test scores. 

So what does it mean when a college indicates that subject tests are recommended or in the case of Cornell, not required? The thought is often to send scores if they are good, probably around 750 and above, and below that, to hold back. Lower scores, the thought goes, won’t help an application and could lessen the value of any accompanying high SAT or ACT scores. Of course, each student is different, and the decision often depends on the “context” of the subject test scores in consideration of the student’s SAT or ACT scores, the student’s GPA, and how and whether the subject tests align with the student’s planned course of study and high school background in that discipline.

On the heels of Cornell’s action comes Georgetown’s announcement that students may now submit AP test scores “in lieu of or in addition to” SAT subject tests. You may be aware of the fact that Georgetown has long “strongly recommended” three subject tests. Deciding which scores to send is similar to the above rationale: send scores around 750 and above for subject tests, and 4 or 5 for APs. The thinking is that anything else could be a detriment to an application. But as in the case of Cornell, the “context” will ultimately be the determining factor in deciding whether or not to send subject test scores.

So that’s what I mean by being nimble: always keeping sight of new developments. I suppose if someone asked me to name the values necessary for applying to college, I would certainly include adaptability!