How does test-optional affect college admission?

Does test-optional really mean test-optional? As the Coronavirus reached America, education was its first target. Students were affected worldwide, and so was their college admissions process. Events such as in-person instruction, and ACT and SAT exams became highly improbable for applying students. Scheduled tests were postponed until further notice, and many of those sessions were eventually canceled. As a result, most universities and colleges removed testing requirements for their applicants, announcing their test-optional application format. Naturally, people began questioning whether this would negatively or positively affect their application, as some of their peers would have test scores and some wouldn’t. Some say that it still makes sense to take the ACT or SAT, while other perspectives say that going test-optional can benefit colleges and students. 

Choosing to submit without a test score will guarantee a closer look at grades, extracurricular experience, and college essays. Because of this, many people say it hurts the application process because for a student whose application is on the verge of being denied, a high standardized test score, for instance, could push the student’s application from the denied pile to the considering pile. “I truly think that submitting my test score helped strengthen my application. It also let me apply for merit scholarships and financial aid,” said Mauricio Furhman. Test scores are not only important for evaluating applicants, but they also matter to colleges for ranking reasons. For schools to achieve their desired ranking, they need a certain percentage of admitted students that received high scores on tests such as the ACT and SAT. While these rankings aren’t important to students applying, the rankings are important to colleges, which could influence their final decisions. Additionally, these tests provide other benefits like financial aid and scholarships. Certain schools do require a standardized test score to qualify for merit scholarships which can also affect the application process.

In contrast, the college admission process has always been about getting to know the student as a person and evaluating how they would fit into the campus and school life; thus, a standardized test score wouldn’t tell a student’s story. The obsession with these test scores tends to drive students away from what’s really important to colleges– personality. “I’m so relieved I didn’t have to submit a test score. I felt like I was so focused on the number rather than building my persona through the other activities,” says Rebeca Kamhazi. Some colleges were already considering testing optional policies before the pandemic hit as they don’t say much about an applicant’s story. This controversial topic affects each student differently. Strong test scores won’t hurt a student’s application, but a low score – when one could choose to submit no score – may compromise the student’s application more than not submitting one. 

Test-optional applications have become a controversial topic. Some students really benefited from this policy as they had more time to focus on building their resume instead of achieving a meaningless number that tells no story. Without the test, students have more time to work on their grades, pursue their goals, and learn about themselves as they begin the application process. Even with high test scores, submitting a score only strengthens the applicant’s resume. In all, it is better to not submit a score and focus on the quality of the resume than submit a low score that will compete against the students who submitted higher scores. If taken advantage of, this policy – as it continues within some schools for the year of 2022 – will be beneficial to students; regardless, this will affect colleges decisions about admissions.

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