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Test-Optional Admissions Defined

If your student is not a skilled test-taker, we have great news for you.

Now, more than ever, colleges are ending requirements that applicants must submit SAT or ACT scores.

This new trend in college admissions is known as “test-optional.”

A test-optional college lets students decide whether they want to submit their test scores along with their application. Although most test-optional colleges will still consider submitted scores, these schools promise to look more closely at a student’s essays, recommendation letters, extracurricular activities, achievements, grades, and coursework. They believe these factors are stronger predictors of student success.

Colleges Placing Less Emphasis on the SAT and ACT

It seems this new push for test-optional is here to stay. According to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, more than 230 colleges have de-emphasized the ACT and SAT since 2005. In calendar year 2019, the pace for colleges making test-optional announcements has been one every ten days according to Inside Higher Ed.

A major study released in 2018 by the National Association for College Admission Counseling found that tests like the ACT and SAT fail to identify talented applicants who can succeed in higher education. This study suggests that applicants who opt not to submit scores are in many cases making wise decisions. The test-optional movement, they write, reflects a broader shift in society away from “a narrow assessment” of potential.

Test Scores Do Still Matter at Most Schools

Before you encourage your student to apply without submitting their scores, however, we encourage you to speak with the college’s admissions team.

Withholding scores might put your student at a disadvantage because some test-optional policies come with restrictions.

Some test-optional schools may require test scores for certain majors or ask for additional materials in lieu of test scores. Test scores may also be required if your student qualifies for merit scholarships.

In addition, good test scores are still a ticket to accessing institutional merit aid. Thus, it is likely still a good idea for your student to prepare for and take a standardized test at least once. Check out an online program like PrepScholar for ease of use and time flexibility.

To find out if the college your student is interested in is test-optional, we suggest visiting


Rory Sullivan


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