Each year more and more institutions are choosing to make submitting your ACT and/or SAT scores optional. This does not mean that you can’t submit them, but that you have the option to do so. Certainly, if your scores are within the range of criteria for a specific school, submitting your scores will only support and help your application for admission. It is another academic touchpoint to balance your transcript. But, if your scores don’t reflect your academic success and/or they are not within the range for a specific college, you can choose not to submit them. And COVID-19 is further impacting the decision to send or not to send. So what should you do? Here is some advice, along with the pros and cons of applying test-optional, to help you make the best decision for you.
As we experience our lives changing with each day that passes, hoping for our new normal to arrive, we know that COVID has changed all of our lives forever, on so many levels, and especially so for our college world. We are unsure if we will even be able to visit any colleges in person before making our decision on which schools to apply to, and testing seems to be the most frustrating experience at the moment. Is a test date even available? Even if there is, as the test date approaches, will the test actually occur? No one knows. This time is like no other we have experienced in our lifetime, and my heart goes out to all of our seniors and rising seniors who have to navigate this journey.
More Colleges Are Going Test-Optional
As time passes, more and more colleges are opting to go test-optional, even some of the most selective institutions in our country. While the number has increased due to COVID, some have decided to do so simply because they had planned this path anyway. It is important to note, however, that many colleges have only gone test-optional for the upcoming 2020/2021 applicants and will return to not being test-optional thereafter.
What Does Test-Optional Mean?
Well, that is a loaded question, or can be. First, let’s address why colleges choose to do this under ordinary circumstances. Although I can’t get into their minds when they are making this decision, over the past few years, there have been studies that have shown that the ACT and SAT are not a great indicator of success for college students, meaning those that stay and graduate from higher education institutions. Higher test scores have been related to a student being from a higher-income family. Why is this? Those families are the ones that can afford to have their children partake in private tutoring for these tests, a great advantage over those that are less fortunate. As noted in a previous video we’ve posted, “How much does GPA matter in admissions?”
What You Need to Know When Deciding If You Should Send Your Scores
When a student applies to a school test-optional, the admissions officer, from an academic standpoint, will focus much more on the student’s transcript, grades and course rigor. In addition, some schools will assume poor test scores when they are not submitted and, although they are supposed to disregard that thought and only focus on the student’s transcript (from an academic standpoint), it has been uncovered that this may not be the case, depending on the school. You also need to understand that once you choose to go test optional you cannot change your mind down the road. This is why you should be 100% sure when you submit your application and have selected that you are applying test optional, that this is definitely the route you would like to take.
Applying Test-Optional Can Negatively Impact Merit Scholarships
If you are applying to a school that provides merit dollars to their admitted students, those that apply test-optional may very well go into a bucket to receive less dollars than their peer counterparts who applied using their test scores. I know, this doesn’t seem fair, but it is reality. In essence, the very reason that applying test-optional was taken on by some schools, for greater access by underprivileged and less advantaged students, provides them with less access from a financial standpoint. Please know I’m not saying all schools do this, but I have spoken with admissions officers who openly tell me this is the case.
Some Interesting Test-Optional Facts to Consider When Making Your Decision to Send or Not Send Your SAT Scores
I want to share with you some test-optional information I learned from a session I attended at a conference (IECA – Independent Educational Consultants Association) where there was a panel of colleges speaking about test-optional for their schools. (Note: this was prior to COVID.) It was insightful and informative.
• Bowdoin was first school to go test-optional
• More than 1,000 colleges are test-optional
• More students are taking both the SAT and ACT than ever and test prep companies are thriving
• 24 states and D.C. require that students take the test for assessment purposes
• “Test flexible” varies by school (this is when a school is not test-optional, but allows you to decide which tests to submit, or a combination thereof, for admissions – may be a combination of AP tests, subject tests, ACT, SAT, etc.)
• Scholarships may not be offered if you apply test-optional and additional material may be required if you apply test-optional (such as writing an additional essay or submitting a piece of work from high school), and other test scores may be required (i.e, AP), and interviews may be required.
Some test optional colleges have exceptions where certain students have to submit tests: international students, homeschooled, athletes (NCAA), for specific majors
• Assumption for some schools is that your ACT/SAT scores are low
• Being test-optional doesn’t serve institutions well in the rankings
• According to US News, if less than 75% of a school’s entering class submitted test scores US News discounts the ranking calculation, which will drop the college’s ranking
• Never submit test scores during the free option to submit during registering for SAT or ACT
Student who submits a score vs. not may impact getting off of the waitlist
• Ask the college if they have data on the percentage of students admitted who do not submit test scores
• Go to the college’s’ website to confirm what is required for admission
There is a lot to think about when considering whether you should send your SAT or ACT scores to a test optional school. Take the time to think everything through before you make your decision.
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