Right now, there are many questions about the SAT/ACT this year and whether you will need to take either for your college applications. Or if you will need to submit the scores you have already.
Since there is no finalized list of colleges with test-optional policies yet for the 2021 to 2022 application season, you should carefully consider your options. Let’s dig in and explore a few things to help you understand standardized testing.
Understanding Test Policies
The test-optional policy allows applicants to decide whether or not to submit SAT/ACT scores as part of their college application. If your scores fall in a college’s upper 25th percentile, sending your scores could complement your application. However, if your scores fall in the lower 25th percentile, it could be a strategic advantage not to submit your scores. Unless you apply to a school that requires all scores (or a program where you need them), it will be your choice. Because of this, the average reported test scores could be skewed higher for the class of 2021.
Please check the current test-optional policies for the schools on your college list and recognize that policies are updated constantly. As an example, Georgia public colleges, including Georgia Institute of Technology, announced last week that fall applicants will once again have to submit standardized tests.
FairTest is a great resource to explore test-optional policies. As of May 11, they report that more than 1,400 colleges are already going test-optional for fall 2022. Some schools have even gone test-blind, like Cal Poly San Luis Obispo and San Diego State University. Test-blind colleges will not use SAT/ACT scores when reviewing your application. However, pay attention to the finer details. For example, while the University of Washington is operating as test-blind, scores could be used to make decisions about putting some students on the waitlist.
The next step is to consider the finer print when it comes to test-optional. In the most recent admissions cycle, over 550 colleges signed NACAC’s Test-Optional Means Test-Optional statement, a pledge that applying test-optional would not be held against students. However, not all schools are truly test-optional. For example, certain honors colleges or majors could require test scores to be considered for direct admission, like at the Kelley School of Business at Indiana University. Others could require test scores for merit scholarship consideration.
Don’t forget other applicants
Students from across the U.S. and world will also be applying to some of the same colleges as you. While many test centers have canceled the SAT/ACT this spring in western Washington, this is not happening universally across the United States. The tests are successfully being administered in other parts of the country.
Does this matter to you? Well, it might not, but it might. You will want to see if the colleges you are applying to have signed the NACAC Test-Optional Means Test-Optional statement for your current application cycle. And if you plan to take the SAT/ACT, be strategic about where you sign up to take it as your best odds might be in other parts of the state (or Idaho) where test centers continue to stay open.
The decision to go test-optional this past year had a significant impact at highly selective schools. With the limitations of standardized testing removed, more students applied to certain colleges that previously would have been out of reach. The uptick in applications, such as at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (+66%) and New York University (+20%), drove acceptance rates down to record lows. We will likely see the same trend this year if most colleges proceed with test-optional policies.
My best advice is to stay well-informed and make decisions that work best for you.
Kiersten Murphy, M.Ed. is an independent college counselor and President of Murphy College Consultants in Issaquah. She can be reached at www.schoolconsultant.com.