Colleges Not Requiring SAT or ACTFor the third consecutive admissions cycle, FairTest.org is reporting that more than 1,700 colleges and universities will remain test optional for prospective students, and they anticipate that the number will keep increasing, according to Higher Ed Dive. Last year’s test optional colleges numbered over 1,800. Among that list of schools are some of the most prestigious institutions in the country, such as Harvard, Stanford, and Yale. Higher Ed Dive reports that colleges, like the University of North Carolina, intend to remain test optional through at least 2024, citing an effort to remain “competitive with peer institutions.” It should be noted that the pandemic is not solely responsible for this shift to test optional. In fact, some colleges have been test optional since 1970, Bowdoin College being the first college to do so. However, it became a little more “mainstream” from 2015 – 2019, when institutions like George Washington University and University of Chicago permanently changed their testing requirements for admissions.
Debate Over Test Optional College AdmissionsLong before the pandemic, standardized test scores in college admissions was a topic of debate in higher education – and today, the debate continues. Some experts believe that the admissions test requirement contributes to systemic racism and classism. Students that lack the resources for adequate test prep are at a disadvantage compared to those that can hire tutors and take extra test prep courses. As a result, colleges and universities across the country lack diversity that would otherwise exist were not these structures in place.
Are Students Going Test Optional?While the number of schools going test optional is increasing, the number of students choosing to do so is not. The Wall Street Journal reports that 200,000 more students in the Class of 2022 took the SAT compared to the Class of 2021. Similarly, the ACT was taken 2.71 million times during the 2021 – 22 school year, up from 2.69 million for the previous school year. Students are hoping that by sending their test scores to test optional schools, they will have an edge over those students who opted out. At the same time, more and more states are requiring students to take standardized tests in order to graduate, reports The Wall Street Journal. Test optional schools give students just that – options. They can first take the standardized tests and determine whether their scores are worth sending. With that, how can high school juniors and high school seniors approach the 2022 – 23 testing year?
- Make a list of colleges you are interested in or plan to apply to. If you’re debating on taking the SAT or ACT, make a list of colleges that you like and check to see if they have any testing requirements. If they’re all test-optional, you have a decision to make.
- Decide whether taking standardized tests is necessary. You could opt not to take the test and submit your college applications without scores. After all, these colleges are test optional. Or you could take the test in hopes of enhancing your application – or to be safe in the event that you end up applying to a school that requires them.
- Consider scholarships that require the SAT or ACT. While a college that you’re interested in may not consider test scores for admission, they may look at them for merit scholarship aid. Additionally, there are private organizations with scholarships that require the SAT or ACT to apply. Keep that in mind, and ask questions about testing, if you opt to go test optional through the college admissions process.
- Take the SAT and/or ACT. If you decide to take a standardized test, a great rule of thumb is to take both without much test prep, and then commit to working hard on test prep for whichever you performed best on. It has generally been proven that the more you take a particular test, the better your score each subsequent time.
- Determine whether to send your scores. Finally, test optional schools give you a chance to see your score first, and then make a decision on if you should submit the results. In the end, you can present yourself in the best light – whether that’s with test scores or without.
To Test? Or Not to Test? That is the QuestionThough going test optional may have been meant to eliminate stress from the college admissions process, it has only added to it for many students. Students have to consider if it’s worth it to spend time and money prepping for standardized tests when they may only be applying to test optional schools. As you make plans for your college admissions journey, it will be helpful in your decision-making process to have conversations about standardized testing with people that know you as well as experts in the field. Each of these resources is also vital to all components of your college search and application process, not just standardized testing. Share your plans, questions, and concerns with these individuals. However, as it pertains to the SAT and ACT, consider the following:
- Talk with your parents and/or guardians, teachers, and mentors. When you’re making big decisions such as these, it’s important to have conversations with grown-ups in your life who are invested in your success and outcomes. Keep them up-to-date on the different standardized testing opinions, and get their input on which route you should take.
- Schedule an appointment with your school counselor. Your school counselor will probably have the most well-rounded outlook to this decision. Not only will they look at the schools you’re applying to, but they’ll also be well-informed of your state’s graduation requirements and other components that will factor into your college application, like GPA, extracurricular activities, and employment or volunteer opportunities.
- Use college fairs or admissions interviews to talk to admissions officers. Finally, have candid conversations with admissions officers at schools you’re interested in attending. There is no better place to do this than a college fair. You can get answers to your standardized test questions at one time.