For decades, the college application process has begun with high school juniors taking college admissions tests. But with many colleges and universities becoming “test-optional” (meaning that they do not require SAT or ACT scores to be submitted with an application), many students with test anxiety are beginning to wonder if testing at all is really necessary.
While the “test-optional” movement is worth understanding as you apply for college, most students find that taking either the SAT or ACT is still a good idea. Read on to learn why.
Understanding Test-Optional Policies
As mentioned, colleges with test-optional programs still accept SAT/ACT scores but no longer require applicants to submit them. Instead, students are evaluated for admission based on their grades and other factors like letters of recommendation, essays, and extracurricular activities. Some schools even accept creative portfolios, video profiles, business plans, or scientific research projects as alternate evidence of a student’s potential.
This trend is fairly new but gaining momentum. In fact, over 1,000 schools have some type of test-optional admission policy now. At first glance, this sounds fantastic, at least to kids that may not be great test-takers, but there are caveats.
For example, at George Mason University, you need to have a GPA above 3.5 for test-optional consideration, and not every department is included. The Computer Science and Engineering programs still require test scores. Home-school applicants and those applying as Division I athletes are also required to submit scores. These caveats vary by school, so it’s important for applicants to fully understand each school’s requirements before applying without test scores.
Why Testing Is Still a Good Idea
Even with a growing number of schools offering some sort of test-optional consideration, most schools are still not test-optional. Considering that students apply to between 5 and 8 schools, it’s highly unlikely that all the schools on a student’s list will be test-optional. For that reason, it’s still a good idea to take the SAT or ACT before applying to schools.
It’s also important to remember that just because you take the test doesn’t mean you have to submit the scores to a test-optional school. If you have a strong application that can stand out from the masses without a test score—and you believe your test score will detract from rather than add to that application—you can always choose to submit an application without your scores to a test-optional school.