For decades, standardized test scores from the ACT or SAT acted as a critical benchmark in college admissions decisions. But college admissions boards are beginning to realize that standardized tests cause many students a great deal of anxiety as well as favor certain segments of the population. More importantly, the ACT & SAT doesn’t always accurately represent students’ academic abilities at the collegiate level. Some colleges originally stated that their policies were just for a year are now reporting that they will test the idea out for two or three years.
“Eliminating ACT/SAT requirements is a ‘win-win’ for both schools and prospective applicants,” explained Fair Test interim Executive Director Bob Schaeffer. “There’s no question that many teenagers are eager to be judged as more than a score.”
But how will this change affect the newest batch of college applicants?
A test-optional college lets students decide whether they want to submit test scores with their application. Most test-optional schools will consider SAT and ACT scores but will still focus on stronger predictors of a student’s potential to succeed in college. These schools look at a student’s essays, recommendations, grades, and coursework just as (or more) closely than your test scores. Students may also want to consider test-flexible and test-blind colleges.
Many states across the United States have contracts with the College Board to offer the SAT as a School Day Test. Some of these states require that high school juniors take the SAT while others allow students to take either the SAT or the ACT. Does your state require the SAT, and what does that mean if so? Ask your college counselor at your high school. If the answer is yes, then you must complete whichever test is the requirement.
The SAT and ACT also play a role at many colleges and universities in awarding merit-based scholarships, which aren’t based on a student’s financial need. If you are applying to a school that provides merit dollars to their admitted students, those that apply test-optional may very well go into a bucket to receive less aid than their peer counterparts who applied with SAT or ACT scores.
Due to widespread test date cancellations and students’ increasingly limited access to both adequate test prep and tutoring centers because of the COVID-19 pandemic, many American colleges and universities will join the ranks of schools that eliminate their standardized testing requirements. Some of the schools that abandoned SAT & ACT requirements include:
According to Fair Test, 72% of colleges and universities adopted test-optional policies last year, and 75% of four-year colleges and universities in the US are test-optional for the 2021-22 application cycle. You can see a full list of schools here.
Ultimately, the decision to register for standardized tests lies with the student and his or her family. But for the many challenging disruptions the global pandemic brought to American education, colleges’ decreased dependence on standardized test scores offers a glimmer of hope for a more inclusive system for disenfranchised students. But, if you do need to take the SAT/ACT, make sure to subscribe to our blog for helpful tips related to standardized testing and college admissions.