Between UC’s latest announcement of going “test blind” and this new era of “test optional” hitting the headlines, parents and students are feeling a huge sense of confusion. What does this really mean? Is my child off the hook from taking the SAT or ACT? Well, like anything in college admissions, it is never a simple answer. So, let me attempt to help you decide what is best for your child.
Prior to Covid, there were already a list of schools that were test optional and other schools were in the process of implementation. In the past, it was believed that test scores had a correlation to academic success of a student in college. Recent research has determined that a student’s GPA is a better indicator. In addition, there is a strong correlation between students who have higher test scores and students of financial means. This is believed to be because of access to test prep.
How does a college benefit from going test optional?
- Helps to increase diversity
- Increases application numbers then in turn lowers their selectivity rate
- Increases a college’s average SAT/ACT scores because typically students with better scores submit
- Increases a school’s ranking in the US News World and Report because test optional is part of the formula
First, let’s talk through some helpful terminology:
- Test Optional: Neither ACT or SAT are required with the application, but if scores are submitted, they will be looked at
- Test Blind: ACT or SAT scores will not be looked at if scores are submitted.
- Test Flexible: Students may substitute other tests such as single subject, AP, IB scores in lieu of SAT or ACT
- Merit Scholarships: This is money given to the student by the institution, typically based on GPA and/or test scores. Sometimes other factors might be considered.
- Need-based money: This is money given to students, by the institution to help off-set the discrepancy between the total cost and a family’s expected contribution (EFC). The EFC is a formula calculated off financial aid forms
- First-generation: Neither parent, of the student, went to college
Here are some stats:
Test optional is not a new thing. This is a list of schools that have been test optional before this new trend and their percentages of submission of the SAT or ACT, from the Common Data Set for 2018-2019.
|Test Optional Institution||% of students that submitted the SAT||% of students that submitted the ACT|
|University of Chicago||53%||58%|
|University of Delaware||70%||25%|
|University of Denver||51%||56%|
Test optional schools had higher application percentages versus non-test optional schools. 29% increase for private schools, 11% for public.
What does this mean?
The increase in applications by a particular school, while the number allotted for admittance staying the same, creates more selectivity. In other words, acceptance chances decrease for the students.
What students should consider not taking the test?
- Meeting the requirements of the GPA for schools that have a chart for minimum requirements, such as the Cal States or Arizona State.
- Achieving a GPA that is well above the average GPA of the previous freshman class at a target school
- Identifying as an under-represented minority at a target school
- Identifying as a first-generation student
What students should still consider taking an SAT or ACT?
- Pursuing a selective major such as nursing, engineering, computer science, etc.
- Pursuing an honors program
- Pursuing institutional merit scholarships
- Participating in homeschooling
- Meeting the average GPA or are below the average GPA of a target school
- Planning on applying to a top-tier college
- Seeking DI or DII recruitment (NCAA for the class of 2022 as of 9/1/20 has not made any exceptions to testing being required. Class of 2021 testing has been waived.)
With the new announcement of the UCs going test blind, it might be inferred that other colleges will follow suit, but the UCs have alternative plans. The Regents of the UC have made a recent announcement that “starting in summer 2020 and ending by January 2021, UC will undertake a process to identify or create a new test that aligns with the content UC expects students to have mastered to demonstrate college readiness for California freshmen.” So! It looks like students in the future will be faced with taking another standardized test for admission into the UC system. We have to be mindful to the disillusionment that these decisions are being made with students’ best interest at heart. The testing business is a lucrative business and it appears the UC system might want a slice of this pie.
In summary, whether a student decides to take the tests or not should be based on his/her goals and knowing the target colleges’ average academic profile to make a sound decision. Taking the tests during a testing optional era can only help you and not hurt you.
*All information in this article is subject to change