Why the SAT “Test-Optional” is Not Really Optional
During the past several years, more colleges and universities in the United States have shifted to a “test-optional” system for admission. This includes all 8 ivy league universities as well as many other top schools in the nation. With this change in the admission process, many students and parents began wondering: what does this really mean to all of the high school students across the country?
What does test-optional mean?
Test-optional means that students have the choice of whether or not they want to submit their standardized test scores (SAT/ACT) along with their application. The reason that so many colleges became test-optional for the class of 2021 was because of the mass cancellation of SAT exams caused by Covid. In order to be more selective on the next group of students entering the school, colleges needed to take as many applicants as possible which led to the SAT becoming optional. Furthermore, another intention was to lessen the inherent disadvantages that students from low-income families receive in the application process as they are less likely to have options for test preparation. However, does this mean that colleges won’t take test scores into consideration? Results show that the answer is no.
Why you should still take the SAT
Even though the SAT is now optional, this is all the more reason to shoot for a high score and submit your results. If there are two students with the same profile and qualifications but only one of them submits a competitive SAT score while the other takes the test-optional path, the student who submitted a score will ten out of ten times have a higher chance to be admitted into the school. This can be seen throughout the admission rates for schools across the nation. For example, 90% of Georgetown’s admitted students for the class of 2026 had submitted test results.
The college admission process is a competition to offer the most unique profile that will stand out to colleges. A profile without a SAT score means the rest of your application will need to be much more competitive (GPA, extracurricular activities, recommendation letters, essays, etc.) in order to compensate for the lack of the SAT score.
Moreover, many merit scholarships and private scholarships still require a SAT score; even for the scholarships that do not require test scores, an applicant with a competitive SAT score will more likely be chosen over a student with no score at all.
As sweet as it sounds, test-optional does not in any way make it easier for students in the college admission process. Make sure to still study for the exam and aim for a high score as an application can only get stronger if a competitive SAT score is added to it. Having said that, this does not mean you should submit your scores if they are much below the average admitted scores for your target college. However, even if your scores are not that high in practice, still take the exam and see your results as you can still choose to not submit it.