Our New Normal = New Guidelines
A Note from Dean Coffin

 
Hello, applicants to the Class of 2025,

The first steps in this year's admissions cycle have certainly been anything but normal for all of us. But the task at hand remains the same: you're looking for the right college, and we're hoping you are starting to see yourself at Dartmouth. For now—and likely for the foreseeable future—the means by which you will explore the programs, places, and people (remember those "3 Ps") that characterize a school will be more virtual than not. As you are discovering, the vibe of a college does emerge from digital spaces. And that's important, if not ideal.

Learning in 2020 has required some adjustments for all of us. This is a fluid moment. The old rules require some elasticity as we meet candidates for our Class of 2025.

Here's what we mean:

Grades

Dartmouth welcomes whatever type of grades your teachers elected to use last spring. Some maintained the grading scale that was previously in use, while others shifted to pass/fail or credit/no credit. It's all good. Your transcript may show an A, a 97, "Honors," a 3.9, Pass, "CR," a narrative assessment, or any of the many ways schools around the world assess academic achievement. Dartmouth will consider them all. And your counselor and teachers will continue to share recommendations with us as part of our holistic admissions process. Their words and insights, as always, will animate our appreciation of your academic achievement and intellectual discovery in whatever curriculum and in whatever format was available to you in your junior year and is available to you now.

 

Testing

Dartmouth College is enacting a one-year suspension of our standardized testing requirement for candidates seeking undergraduate admission. Dartmouth College is test optional for the Class of 2025. 

In normal circumstances, standardized testing offers useful statistical context for the holistic evaluation of a student's academic record as well as our essential assessment of preparation for the curriculum we offer. But this moment is not normal and a policy pause is warranted. However, our commitment to academic excellence and intellectual curiosity has not changed.

"Optional" is not a trick word. It is not a wink that signals a continued institutional preference for the upcoming admissions cycle. This is not a euphemism or gimmick; there should be no parsing of intent with this amended testing policy. It is a clear response to an unprecedented moment that requires admission officers to reimagine some of the elements we have historically required as we reassure anxious students about their upcoming applications. Worries about oversubscribed test sites, anxiety regarding limited registration access and the incongruity of test prep during a pandemic can be set aside.

At Dartmouth, we will welcome any testing element a student chooses to share—the SAT, the ACT, a subject test, an AP score—or none at all. Our admission committee will review each candidacy without second-guessing the omission or presence of a testing element. As with the other optional components of the application—an alumni interview, a peer recommendation—the decision to share testing as an element of holistic review is purely an individual one.

We strongly advise students to focus on the many holistic elements of the application that showcase academic excellence. In this 100th anniversary of holistic admissions review at Dartmouth College, that ancient ideal of the whole person is more urgent and relevant than ever. Testing is not universally available right now, so we have adjusted our requirements, our priorities, and our focus. Other matters demand our collective energies right now.