Update: This post was originally written in May 2020 and was updated November 2021. Throughout the spring and fall of 2020, there were many SAT and ACT cancellations. As a result, nearly all colleges adopted a test optional policy for Fall 2021 admissions. Many schools already had a test optional admissions policy but those that didn’t got a needed push to pilot test optional admissions due to the pandemic. As of October 6, 2021, more than 75% of four-year institutions have announced they will continue test optional admissions for Fall 2022 admissions, including competitive schools like Harvard, Yale, Stanford, and UVA. Our advice to students in the class of 2023 is to take at least one SAT and/or ACT during junior year, check the admissions policies for each school to which you plan to apply (including any exceptions such as particular programs, Honors college acceptance, or merit aid), and think about your overall application strengths and weaknesses before deciding if SAT/ACT scores would help or hurt your application as a whole.
Since its inception in 1926, the Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) has encountered its fair share of controversy, from a lack of equity to skepticism regarding its validity in predicting a student’s success in college. Over the past few years, more and more colleges have announced a test optional or test flexible admissions policy, which does not penalize students who do not submit SAT or ACT scores. With the cancellation of three test dates in the spring of 2020, even more schools dropped the admissions requirement for SAT or ACT scores, if only temporarily. So why should students consider taking the test at all? Here’s why.
While many colleges and universities may have waived the SAT/ACT requirement, others have not because it provides an additional factor to consider when evaluating highly competitive college applicants. So far, about 50% of colleges have committed to remaining test optional for fall 2023 admissions. This leaves a lot of unknown on how many and which schools will remain test optional for the class of 2023. Additionally, if SAT/ACT scores are not submitted, more weight will be given to GPA, rigor of curriculum, and extracurricular activities.
Even if all the schools you plan on applying to have adopted test optional policies and you meet the academic requirements, we suggest you still take the SAT or ACT. It’s always a good idea to keep your options open, and you don’t have to submit test scores if you don’t want to. If you have already submitted scores to a test optional school but decide you do not want the SAT or ACT scores factored in to your application, you will need to be sure to select that you are applying test optional in the common app or coalition app.
In addition to being used for admissions decisions, SAT or ACT scores can influence which scholarships you receive, or even which ones you qualify for. If you don’t take the SAT or ACT, your scholarship selection may be limited. Since merit based financial aid is determined by academic performance, SAT scores can boost the amount of aid money you receive. And with the high cost of a post-secondary education, every little bit helps!
SAT/ACT scores may also still be required for certain programs or Honors Colleges, even if admission to the university is test optional. For example, VCU still requires SAT/ACT scores for guaranteed admissions programs, such as medicine, nursing, and physical therapy.
If your top schools’ average admitted GPA ranges are higher than yours, a competitive SAT score could improve your prospect for acceptance. Maybe your physics teacher didn’t give out any grade higher than a C, or your final grades dipped junior year because the transition back to in-person learning was a challenge. If your grades don’t reflect your academic abilities, you can leverage SAT or ACT scores to showcase what you are capable of. In this case, test scores can enhance your application by adding an additional component to your academic performance.
Finally, if you are strongly considering community college you might wonder why you should take the SAT as it is not a requirement for admissions. Did you know many community colleges accept SAT or ACT scores in lieu of the entrance math and English placement tests? Results from these placement tests are used to determine if you are ready for college-level English and math classes; however, the SAT does that as well. Northern Virginia Community College accepts a minimum score of 480 on the SAT reading section for placement into college level English classes and a minimum score of 510 on the SAT Math section for placement into college level math classes. Keep in mind, SAT scores are only valid for two years.
Before deciding against taking the SAT, consider these benefits of sitting for the test. Still not convinced? Give us a call!
* updated 6/13/2020