Test Optional: Dream Come True?

Test optional. Oh, those words sound so nice. But how does it exactly work? Some parents and students are surprised that some colleges will accept a student even if the student does not submit SAT or ACT scores. 

That's right. Some colleges do NOT require that students take the SAT or ACT test to be admitted. And some of these are really, really good colleges, highly selective ones with high score averages. Before you get on the "no-testing" bandwagon, here are a few things to keep in mind so you are better educated about this testing option.

What's The Deal? 

Why would a college decide to get rid of SAT or ACT? Well, there are a number of reasons, and each college may choose not to require the SAT or ACT as part of the admissions process. 

Reason #1: Academic GPA is More Important Indicator of Success at College

Colleges make the SAT or ACT optional for students with a high academic GPA (typically 3.0 and higher) reasoning that the student's GPA reflects a student's academic potential and a secondary test score is not needed. The majority of colleges that do not require SAT or ACT scores fall under this category. These schools are typically less selective and/or state colleges.

Also, some colleges may be signaling to potential applicants that the admission process is not driven by test scores but looks at the applicant as a whole. Actually, almost one-third of the most highly selective liberal arts colleges in the United States are test optional and do not require the SAT or ACT test.

Reason #2: "Flexible" Admissions Becoming More Popular For Selective Colleges

Some colleges may not require the SAT or ACT test, but the colleges still expect you to submit other test formats, like AP exam scores, Subject Tests or IB exams. These colleges are sometimes referred to as "test flexible". The most well known of these types are Colby CollegeColorado College and Bryn Mawr. These colleges are acknowledging that the SAT or ACT test may not adequately reflect academic ability, but some sort of testing should still be submitted.

Reason #3: Going "Test Optional" Increases College Ranking

Recently, some argue that certain colleges may use test optional to increase the scores reported in the college handbooks and rankings. How would not requiring students to submit SAT or ACT scores help the average? Well, the assumption is that students with lower scores would opt to not submit them, thereby increasing the overall average of the scores reported. It is true that many colleges will potentially see higher SAT averages after choosing to no longer require these tests. Sort of ironic, huh.

Reason #4: Test Optional Colleges May Create More Diversity

It is not secret that minorities and first-generation to college often score lower on the SAT exam, thereby placing these students at a disadvantage when test scores are used a primary admissions variable. 

Important Tip

Many "test-optional" colleges still require students to submit test scores to qualify for merit scholarships and other forms of financial aid. So keep that in mind. Typically, I advise all students to prepare and study for the SAT or ACT, see what happens. That way, if you do well on the SAT or ACT, you can still qualify for these scholarships and apply to a broader range of colleges. 

Are you a Test Optional Candidate?

So, what do you think? Are you a test optional candidate? Do you have low scores and high GPA? Are you considering applying to liberal arts colleges? Do you have lots of leadership and extracurriculars that will boost the application? Then, I recommend looking at this list of over eight hundred colleges that do not require the SAT or ACT test as part of the application.

Did you decide that at least a few of your favorite colleges ask for test scores. If so, don't forget to read my recommendations for Best Books for ACT Prep and Best Books for SAT Prep. These will help you to create a great plan for you SAT or ACT preparation.

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