If standardized tests aren’t your strength, have no fear! Many colleges will remain test optional the next few years. If you want to keep all your options open, plan to prepare for and do your best on either the SAT or ACT.
The college admissions landscape has changed dramatically over the last three years in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. When thousands of SAT and ACT test administrations were cancelled during the spring and fall of 2020, colleges and universities were forced to change their SAT or ACT admissions requirement. Many universities implemented a three-year pilot test optional admissions program with the intent to collect data on whether students applying without an SAT or ACT score were as successful in college as those applying with a score.
During that time colleges embraced a holistic approach to admissions, weighing many factors in their decision such as GPA, rigor of curriculum, and extra-curriculars. The importance of standardized test scores varied by institution. For example, the University of California system has adopted a test-free or test-blind policy, meaning they will not factor SAT or ACT scores into admissions decisions even if students want to submit scores. On the other end of the spectrum, Georgetown University not only requires scores but does not participate in Score Choice, meaning they require a full testing record of all SAT or ACT tests taken by a student.
Although colleges were on both sides of the spectrum, most schools fell somewhere in between. For example, Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU) was test optional before the pandemic. However, they still require an SAT score above 1330 (or equivalent ACT score) for admission into the Honors College, Guaranteed Admission and Preferred Applicant track programs for professional schools like medical school and physical therapy programs.
Now that the three-year pilot program has ended, how will colleges use SAT/ACT scores in the long term? While the answer remains unclear, there are a few questions students can ask when researching and visiting colleges and universities:
- How are SAT/ACT scores used at each school, if at all?
- Are SAT/ACT scores required for specific programs or honors colleges?
- Are SAT/ACT scores required for scholarship consideration?
It’s helpful to track answers in a spreadsheet and consider all responses when planning your test prep schedule.
Despite the many changes over these past few years, our general advice hasn’t changed much. We still encourage all college-bound juniors to take the SAT or ACT at least once. It’s better to have a score junior year and not need it than scramble for a score senior year when you realize a college you want to apply to requires it. This also gives you a chance to determine if your score is a strength on your application or if you’d rather not submit scores to test optional schools.
If standardized tests just aren’t your thing, there will be many colleges and universities remaining test optional or test blind. Keep in mind, if you don’t submit SAT/ACT scores, colleges will look closer at grades and rigor of curriculum, so challenge yourself in your classes and focus on your grades. If you want to keep all options open in terms of colleges and specific programs of interest, spend time preparing to do your best on the SAT or ACT.
Want to discuss your goals and plan for SAT/ACT prep? Schedule a free consultation here.