I am an international student applying to Harvard this fall. Taking TOEFL/IELTS is a financial hardship for me so I have decided not to take it. Most of the other universities either accept the Duolingo English Test or assess the SAT score for English requirements. Harvard doesn't REQUIRE TOEFL/IELTS but I want to know if not giving one will negatively affect my application?
If taking the TOEFL/IELTS is a financial burden then take the Duolingo test. Although Harvard does not require the TOEFL/IELTS, and makes no mention of the Duolingo for their undergraduate admissions, I know that they accept DUOLINGO for their continuing education. You just need a score of 125 or greater.
I feel that showing some evidence of your English proficiency on Duolingo (125+) is better than not submitting anything at all. Since 1500 institutions accept the Duolingo test, it does have some validity. The other thing is to submit a very high SAT or ACT score. For example, if you have a 1500+ SAT (750+ EBRW) or a 35 ACT on Reading and English, that will help establish your Reading and Writing ability, but not your speaking or conversational ability.
You can fortify your speaking and conversational English through the person-to-person interview if you make it through to that point, or through affidavits from your recommenders. So if both of your recommenders state that that your aptitude in conversational English is the best they are aware of, that also helps take the guesswork out of the admissions office. And if you "ACE" your interview, that would have some bearing on your English speaking expertise as well.
The other thing I would do is consider using the Coalition Application versus the Common Application. If you register on the Coalition Application and you qualify for fee waivers, then you can get them automatically within the app. So if you apply to 20 colleges including Harvard and meet the low-income qualifications, you can get automatic fee waivers within the Coalition App without asking for 20 individual fee waivers from each of the schools you are applying to. Does that make sense?
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