The list of test-optional schools is growing every day in the new reality of COVID-19. This is understandable; the ACT and the College Board were not prepared for a pandemic. It was too late to find ways to administer a three-hour paper and pencil test under government-enforced policies of social distancing.
Fortunately, college admissions offices have acknowledged this, and made the decision to go test optional. Other schools such as Indiana University and Oregon State University made the decision to go test optional before the pandemic. I have already written about the University of California system’s commitment to test-optional admissions for state residents.
The growing list of test-optional schools has been viewed as a positive by counselors and admissions officers. I can understand why: low scores or no scores will not discourage seniors from applying to a “reach school.” However, when applying to test optional schools, consider this rule: the more who apply, the more who will be denied.
It might be easier to apply to test optional schools. A student can submit a completed application, even if s/he has never taken the ACT or SAT. But that does not mean that a test-optional school will have a larger freshman class, or that it will take more students who scored low on standardized exams.
The more selective the college, the more likely the admissions office will look closely at the high school transcript. This is especially true when that office has not received many previous applications from your high school. An admissions office will look at the grades received in each course and check the course against others in the high school’s catalog that are in the same subject. If your admissions essays mention enthusiasm for a particular subject, or your application has an intended major, a college’s admissions office will expect your grades to reflect your enthusiasm or intentions.
Yes, if your academic record or other talents make admissions possible, and you can highlight those talents in your essays. There’s little value, for example, in standardized testing for prospective visual arts, film, music or theatre majors who have ample opportunity to practice and master their crafts. An excellent math student who wins Math Olympiads can certainly present high math grades. The same is true for prospective Computer Science majors who can already write code in multiple languages.
Need help in building your college list or preparing for the admissions process? Contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org or call me at 609-406-0062.
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