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Determine What Is Best For You

A few months ago we wrote a blog about Test Optional Policies Backfiring on Underrepresented Groups. The blog questioned institutional motives for going test optional. Many schools receive major benefits to their college rankings as a consequence of higher selectivity and higher average test scores due to test-optional policies. All signs pointed to the negative effects of test-optional policies on low-income and minority students. However, because of the coronavirus, the playing field has drastically changed for high school juniors. 

This blog will help you decide whether to take college entrance exams and submit your test scores in light of the recent cancelling of the spring college entrance exams. We will also inform you about which schools are going test-optional. The decision to take the exams will depend on your particular circumstances. Some students may benefit from not testing this year and instead focusing their efforts on building up their resumes by taking online college courses, helping their communities, and staying healthy both physically and mentally. However, for those applying to more competitive colleges and universities, SAT/ACT scores can help boost their application in light of announcements that second semester grades may not hold any weight.

Your Testing Timeline Has Been Affected

Because of the Covid-19 safer-at-home measures, high school juniors missed the chance this spring to take the SAT/ACT, and many others face uncertainty about ACT administrations in July. The quarantine has severely affected crucial timetables for college admissions testing that usually include up to 3 exams and subject tests. Widespread exam cancellations and postponements have left many students wondering how to fit it all in during the fall. Take a careful look at your college list and determine what the colleges to which you are applying are requiring. Have the colleges on your list gone test-optional or are they test-flexible or test blind? No colleges or universities currently require subject tests, so these should not be your priority. We highly recommend focusing on the SAT/ACT if you are still planning to test and only take subject tests if time permits. 

In Response, Some Schools Are Becoming Test-Optional

The situation is so severe that a growing number of colleges are suspending or ending test-score requirements for applicants. Here is a list of schools that have gone test-optional. Some schools have gone test-optional for this year only, while others have taken the opportunity to do it permanently. 

Three Types of Test Optional

Some schools are test-flexible schools. These are schools that allow students to submit another test score in place of the SAT or ACT. Students may opt to turn one or more SAT Subject Tests, an International Baccalaureate exam, or Advanced Placement test. Other schools are test-optional. These schools allow students to decide whether they turn in college entrance test scores along with their applications. These schools consider test scores of students who decide to submit them, but do not place a heavy emphasis on them. Instead, they look at other predictors of college success. Other schools, such as Cal States for the 2021 application cycle, are test blind. This means that they will not accept SAT/ACT scores at all. The UC system just announced that it will go test optional for 2021 and 2022 and test blind for 2023 and 2024.

What Will Test-Optional Schools Look For?

Test-optional schools will look at other factors. For these colleges, there are other stronger predictors of a student’s potential to succeed in college. They look at student essays, recommendation letters, grades, extracurricular activities, and coursework. When students apply to test-optional schools, they should keep in mind that other parts of the application will be closely looked at. Colleges want as much information about prospective students as possible. So if you withhold your test scores, make sure your achievements are strong enough to make an impression. You should also not hold back on sharing your story and being open about any personal circumstances that may affect your academics. Colleges want to know who YOU are, so don’t be afraid to give them an inside look into your everyday realities. 

Should You Opt Out of Testing?

Consider Your Particular Circumstances

Although we typically do not recommend opting out of testing, this year is very different from previous years. There is no one-size-fits all plan for when to take admissions tests. Each student should consider school schedule, extracurricular activities, admissions deadlines, and personal circumstances, among other factors. 

If you feel that test scores will help your college application look stronger, then you should continue to prepare for your exams. You’ll have to adjust your testing timeline accordingly. According to the College Board, if it’s safe from a public health standpoint, they will provide weekend SAT administrations every month through the end of the calendar year. This will begin in August, and will include an additional test administration date on September 26. Both the SAT and ACT have announced plans for online testing starting in the fall. 

Skip the Test if You Are At a Disadvantage

If your testing timeline has been severely affected because of the remote testing options, it may be in your best interest to opt out of testing. The College Board allowed for the remote AP Exams this spring. This allowed students to use many methods to complete and capture and submit tests for scoring. Students were able to take the test via tablets, mobile phones, and photograph handwritten work. Some students experienced major technical problems when trying to submit their scores. Other students simply didn’t have the technical capabilities needed for online testing at home, and were not able to test.

The digital divide puts lower income and rural students at a complete disadvantage. Not every student owns a computer or tablet, or a reliable internet connection. Unfortunately, no one knows exactly when public health officials will deem it safe to test in person again. If remote testing becomes the norm, then students that are from a disadvantage should consider skipping the college entrance tests. The National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC), has called for all colleges and universities to go test optional in light of the lack of resources available to low-income students. If this is the case for you, mention this hurdle in your college application because colleges and universities want to know the struggles you face. 

Helpful Links & Resources

NEW Test Optional School List

FAIR TEST– 1,200+ Accredited, Four-Year Colleges and Universities with ACT/SAT-Optional Policies (for Fall 2021 Admission)