Columbia Announces Indefinite Test-Optional Admissions Policy

In March 2023, Columbia became the first Ivy League college to become Test-Optional without an attached end-date for all undergraduate applicants.

In announcing its indefinite Test-Optional policy, Columbia cited its consideration of “varied backgrounds, voices and experiences in order to best determine an applicant’s suitability for admission”. Columbia thus becomes the first Ivy League college to make such a declaration of an indefinite Test-Optional policy. 

Along with the majority of other colleges, Columbia has not required standardized test scores since the 2020-2021 academic year following the start of the COVID-19 pandemic.  U.S. News listed Columbia No. 18 in its 2022-23 Top College rankings, a drop from No. 2 in the previous year due to submission of inaccurate data.

Test-optional timeline announced by Ivy League colleges (as of March 10, 2023):

  • Columbia: Indefinite
  • Harvard: through 2025-26 admissions cycle (Class of 2030)
  • Princeton: through 2025-26 cycle (Class of 2030)
  • Cornell: through 2024-25 cycle (Class of 2029)
  • UPenn: through 2024-25 cycle (Class of 2029)
  • Dartmouth: through 2024-25 cycle (Class of 2029)
  • Yale: through 2023-24 cycle (Class of 2028)
  • Brown: through 2023-24 cycle (Class of 2028)

Columbia Acceptance Rates (by Category of Applicants), Class of 2026

Applicant Category

Total Applicants

Total Admits

Percentage Admitted





Early Decision




Regular Action








Source: Columbia Admissions

Insight #1: The number of Early Decision applicants has dropped nearly 10% in the current application cycle (2022-23) compared to the previous year’s.  

This suggests that Columbia’s drop from #2 to #18 in the most recent U.S. News Rankings has had a significant impact on student decisions (not) to apply early. 

Insight #2: But it still pays to apply early to Columbia.  The 10% lower number of Early Decision applicants to Columbia (compared to previous year) suggests even more favorable conditions for those who applied early to Columbia in the current 2022-23 admissions. 

If Columbia is your top choice, all other things being equal, there is a 3.5X greater chance to be admitted when applying under Early Decision, compared to Regular Decision.

Insight #3: Columbia categorizes the Application Essay as “Very Important”, on the same level as Rigor of Academic Record and GPA. Columbia, like other top colleges, look to the Application Essay for critical context about the applicant’s academic achievements, and particularly intellectual curiosity. 

In the age of Test Optional policies, the Application Essay has become, more than ever, a critical element of the college admissions process. 

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