Applying to college is such a stressful time for most high school students. And due to the situation with the global pandemic, the college admission has experienced major shifts. Many schools have gone test-optional for the current admission cycle. So what is test-optional?
SAT and ACT are two standardized testing for college admission required by most colleges and universities in the US. The SAT and ACT scores help admission committee to assess student’s college readiness.
Test-optional for college admission
According to NACAC (the National Association for College Admission Counselling), test-optional is that when and if student applies to test-optional college or university, submitting SAT or ACT scores is totally optional. The students or applicants who submit their SAT or ACT scores will be judged on those test scores and they will not if they do not submit them.
Test-optional vs test blind
Test-optional is different from test blind. Colleges or universities with test blind admissions don’t consider standardized scores at all. Even if applicants submit their SAT or ACT scores, those will not be reviewed or weighed. Meanwhile, test-optional admission will include the test scores in their considerations if applicants submit them.
Do the tests still matter then?
Yes, they do still matter. However, there have been signs that their overall importance is decreasing. The SAT and ACT have received pretty strong criticism especially for the last few years. Some schools went test-optional even before the global pandemic hit. Test-optional is mostly driven by concerns about equity. Also, many people believe that student’s test scores correlate more with factors such as family income and parental education than academic achievement. From various studies, test-optional policies are generally successful in increasing diversity without impacting academic results negatively.
With test-optional policies, colleges and universities will have to sort through a mountain of applications to decide which students to admit. Then, they appreciate the extra data point provided from standardized tests. Even so, test-optional schools still encourage students to take standardized tests and submit their scores if they are able. It is not only about score but also about student’s readability to enter college and do all academic works. Test scores will be used as another useful barometer for college admission process.
Should you take SAT/ACT?
Yes, you should if you are able. Even if you are applying to test-optional college or universities, it will be beneficial for you to submit your test scores especially if your scores are high. It is unlikely to hurt your application, and could help it a great deal. Submit your test scores if you think they will portray you in a good light. Also, stay focused on your college application especially when it is test-optional because it means you will be heavily judged based on other metrics of academic success such as GPA, class rank, and courses you took. With test-optional policy, the competition is getting high. Also, standardized testing will likely be part of college admission for the foreseeable future even if its influence has significantly lessened by the global pandemic.