The New Normal of Test Optional Admissions
Test optional admissions have become a “new normal” for the upcoming college admissions cycle. They have presented many concerns and questions for parents and students alike. There is also uncertainty about upcoming test centers and test dates as high schools and colleges plan to reopen this fall.
This post features an interview with Dr. Niki Mendrinos, EdD, a “go-to guru” on test optional admissions.
Niki wrote her doctoral thesis on test optional while she worked as a senior admissions director at Temple University (picture above). Niki’s conclusions, based on her study of student success at Temple, led the university to make the decision go test optional in 2015. Temple was probably the largest university to go test optional—and made it possible for applicants to all majors.
Prior to Temple’s decision to go test optional, less than 40 percent of their freshmen graduated on time. Since then, Temple has complemented test optional admissions with a student success initiative called ‘Fly In Four’. Four-year graduation rates for the classes that have arrived since 2015 are approaching 60 percent.
Since then many other large and small schools have gone test optional. However, as Niki will advise, be careful and do your homework. Some schools will require test scores for more competitive programs such as engineering, nursing or pharmacy. High scores may be necessary to qualify for merit scholarships or honors colleges.
Niki will tell you that she has a big smile on her face as she learns that more schools have made the decision to go test optional. Listen to Niki as she tells you why. She will also answer some tough questions for you.
Test-optional admissions are going to be with us for a while in this COVID reality. But keep in mind that:
Test-optional does not mean “grades optional.”
The grades and the academic rigor shown on the transcript will become more important when an admissions office has no scores. Different schools and academic programs will have different academic expectations.
Other admissions requirements count for more when you do not submit scores.
Extracurricular achievements will become more important, including jobs and family responsibilities. College admissions offices might also ask for essays, recommendations and other information to help them make a decision. Take these requirements seriously when you apply.
You should let your school counselor know when you are applying test optional.
If your high school reports standardized test results on your transcript, tell your school counselor that you do not wish to have them reported to colleges.
Test-optional admissions does not mean test-blind.
Test optional means that test scores are part of your admissions package, if you submit them. They are not considered, if you do not. Test blind admissions means that an admissions office will not even look at your scores.
Parents and students should ask admissions officers about the average and median test scores for their target schools.
More often than not, admissions officers will tell prospects with average or median scores, or better, to submit them.
Schools that use test optional admissions will place different levels of importance on scores when students submit them.
A more selective school might place a higher level of importance on the scores. A larger school might place more importance on scores for admissions to a highly competitive major.
Listen to Niki talk about test optional admissions. You won’t find another conversation like this on other college admissions sites.
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