Many people are so confused about test optional schools and if applying is easier, better, more diverse, etc. Well, let’s dispel some myths about test optional, then you can discern for yourself if you want to include test optional schools and not send scores.
Test Optional is not new. It has been around for decades, actually. Some colleges have had test optional for almost 50 years now. Some colleges do not accept standardized test scores at all, while others will accept if you want them to see your scores. Some schools offer the option to NOT send your scores, but if you do not you must include an additional essay or graded English paper, etc.
Test Optional, pure Test Optional, offer the student to exclude sending standardized test scores from either the College Board’s SAT or from the ACT test. You, generally, check a box to do so on the Common, Coalition, or Universal Applications. Applications peculiar to a specific school will not have a section on scores if it does not ask for them.
Fairtest.org is a website that contains a pretty up-to-date list of current Test Option schools.
Now how to decide? Well, as a counselor I will tell you that it depends on your scores, grades, the level of courses you take, and the school you are keen on to apply.
Let’s go through these one at a time. If your current GPA is within the school’s last entering freshman year’s 50th percentile or better, this means your GPA is in a good place. If your course rigor is chock full of advanced courses, and you are carrying good grades, then you are in a good position as well. If your scores are above the last year accepted class’s average 50th percentile, even your scores are in a good place. You do not necessarily need to ignore your scores.
What if the first two apply for you-grades and course rigor-but your scores are in the bottom 25th percentile of the school’s last accepted class. Then you might want to hold back your scores. All the other criteria that truly count in decision making are excellent. Your scores will bring your attractiveness down a bit.
What if your scores are abysmal? Chances are you might want to choose a school that super scores across several tests, get help, and take the test a few times at least. If the super score is still quite low, you might want to make Test Optional schools your first choices.
Now what does Test Optional mean in terms of the quality of the school…well, nothing really. All levels of schools now offer test optional. Some, by doing so, have become even more selective and difficult to get into. Some have become more challenging because the sheer volume of applicants changes. Are these schools more diverse and progressive, socially? No, not really. Test optional statistics have not shown any schools to increase in diversity of culture, race, or ethnicity simply by going test optional.
Many colleges and universities practice Affirmative Action in admissions-which means-they generally given some academic indexing to students who need help to make the bar, if the student is a gifted minority or exhibits a culture inclusion to the school but cannot make the test scores. So most higher education is far more diverse and fair (with the exception of schools that are limited-such as all female or all one race, primarily, such as Morehouse) with applicants and admission.
Test Optional is a fantastic option for really good students, who take good courses and difficult courses, but are terrible test takers. Not terrible students, but terrible test takers. Test Anxiety does exist, and it is crippling to so many who do excel in studies in every way. Some students are great at certain kinds of tests but cannot do bubbling of multiple choice tests, and for these students, Test Optional schools are also great. Some people remark that no highest tier schools are test optional. This is not 100% true. However, lower scores in some of the best schools don’t necessarily get you out of the admission pool; remember schools are looking for the students who rise to the top of where they are! I had a student years ago who had terrible scores in comparison to the country. However, her scores were the 99th percentile for her school and state. She worked as hard as anyone in her school; she was head of her class, she participated in lots of AP courses, etc. Her mother was so concerned she could not get accepted into the top journalism school in the country. I was convinced she could. She showed throughout her entire resume that she worked to the best she could achieve. Her scores were not going to hold her back. She did get in! She has graduate and works in NYC in a media firm today.
Consider Test Optional as a gift for those who are serious candidates for a school with the exception of one small statistic. Do not consider Test Optional schools as easier to get into, or less rigorous in admission. Also do not consider Test Optional schools are fairer or more diverse….they are exactly the same in many ways with the one exception of one less item that matters in admission. For those that this one item is a downfall, this option is a Godsend. Any questions as to how you should apply? Contact us! Glad to schedule a session to go through your list and offer best advice as to which admission option to grab.