The College Test Optional Policy


Students open their SAT test booklet to find an overwhelming layout of answer bubbles found in the depths of their worst nightmares

 Standardized tests are not for everyone. 

  Well, actually they’re for everyone, but you know what I mean. 

  The pandemic has practically upended the college entrance exam industry, making a number of colleges shift to the test-optional policy. 

  This year, a staggering 75 percent of four-year colleges and universities will not require SAT or ACT scores for the 2021-22 admissions cycle. Before, many colleges and universities were forced to suspend the requirement for these tests due to limited testing ability in 2020 because of Covid-19, but many of these schools have now decided to extend this policy, with some of them possibly making the switch permanent schoolwide. 

  Top educational institutions in the country, like the Ivy League Universities, adopted these temporary test-optional policies, and the vast majority have still kept them for this upcoming cycle. Most of the time, higher education institutions like the Ivies are a case of follow-the-leader, so when all of the universities in the Ivy League announced they wouldn’t require test scores within the same month of each other, it wasn’t a surprise. This same pattern also occurred with nationally ranked liberal arts schools like Williams College and Amherst College.

  The test-optional policy made it so that these schools’ applications were frenzied with students taking their shot at schools they never thought they’d get accepted to. 

  Schools like Columbia’s applications were up by as much as 51% in the past year. It also created a record low acceptance rate for many institutions, especially the Ivies, making it seem more intimidating for students to apply in the upcoming years.

  For many students across the country, these standardized tests were a way for them to stand out amongst other students and receive scholarship awards. Now, however, the once critical tests that teens around the country once bit down their nail beds for are no longer seen as the #1 priority in the application process.

  On the other hand, so many students can easily say they’re relieved. A large percentage of applicants don’t have the resources to take these standardized tests multiple times to achieve the most impressive scores. 

  Most admission offices did agree that test-optional policies would make their institutions more open to lower income and underrepresented students. This looks like good news, sure, but it worries many college officials about student success since it is much more difficult to predict student success outcomes without the ability to evaluate their standardized test scores. 

  Going test-optional may be an easy way to claim equal opportunities for all student admissions, but unfortunately socioeconomic status influences all elements of college admissions, not just test-scores. 

  For example, a Stanford study found that admissions officers respond more favorably to essays written by students from wealthier households. The numbers are what really tell the story as data shows that Georgetown only admitted 7.34% of early applicants that didn’t have test scores. 

  So, their appearances don’t exactly translate into meaningful change in the admissions process making “optional” feel more like “preferred.” If colleges were truly committed to being as unbiased as possible in the admissions process, they would want to adopt a “test-blind” policy and not look at test scores at all.

  After all this information you’re probably thinking: what now? 

  Well, what I’ll advise you to do is to prepare for and take said standardized tests, just like how you would if it were actually required for all colleges. You never know; if you go into the test with no expectations and try to trust your abilities, you could surprise yourself. 

  Not only that, but now colleges have indicated there is a much heavier reliance on high school transcripts and grade-point average, meaning it’s more important than ever to get your GPA as high as possible. Your high school performance will show your work ethic. 

  It’s also important you do as many clubs that you are interested in, so the school can see your passions and how much you’re willing to commit to it. 

You also don’t want to spread yourself out too thin; if you’re thinking of adding multiple things to your plate, think of how this may affect your other commitments. Remember, it’s mostly about quality not quantity. 

  With all that being said, say you do poorly on the SAT or ACT and sending in your scores would most likely be worse than not, you are able to opt out of sending your test scores to specific colleges. 

  Though, it is very important to evaluate the places you’re applying to vs. your scores, and if your extracurriculars and GPA can compensate for the scores you’re not sending. Plus, colleges are still encouraging students to submit their scores, especially if they already have them, making it clear that they do value these scores in some sort of capacity.

  This begs the question, “How much is this policy really helping us as students?” 

  There’s the obvious conclusion that you wouldn’t feel obligated to take the SATs, but it’s difficult to truly know how your choice affects the way they decide for your application. 

  When you look back after being rejected, you’d have to wonder if sending your test scores could’ve gotten you accepted. At least, that would be my overthinking brain, but to each their own.