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Why MIT’s reinstating SAT requirements is good for African students

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I am a Kenyan alum of MIT. I look back at the four years I spent there from 2005-2009 very fondly for many reasons, including the fact that I had a full scholarship for my undergraduate study and was surrounded by a brilliant and extremely supportive student community counting many Africans and other international students among my close friends.

In the recent past, MIT and several other academic institutions took out SAT requirements for undergraduate applicants in a bid to increase diversity, a move that was hastened by the pandemic as it became harder for students to safely take the tests. Proponents of taking out testing requirements argue that standardized tests exclude economically-disadvantaged ethnic minorities, especially Blacks and Latinos in favor or more affluent whites, who have more resources to better prepare them for the tests. Any efforts to increase diversity in academic institutions and other places of influence are laudable. When I was there, it felt like a meritocracy for those who got in.

MIT is one of the top-tier schools that is need blind (reviews applications without considering what financial support you will need, thus not penalizing students who can’t afford to go there), does not accept legacy students who don’t qualify (you will not get in simply because your parents went there or are huge donors to the school), and gives extremely generous financial packages to international students. This is important because most international students do not quality for state or national academic grants and loans that many Americans can apply for. At least 20% of current MIT undergraduates are the first generation in their families to attend college.

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