What is Test-Optional Admissions?
The SAT and ACT have been integral to the US university admissions process for decades. However, as many of you know, COVID-19 has led to test date cancellations. In response, many US universities have decided to use test-optional polices for the 2020-21 admissions cycle. In many respects, this is an ethical response to ensure that students unfairly burdened by the consequences of COVID-19 can still submit complete and competitive applications.
Students who have prepared for the SAT and ACT but were unable to test this spring, may think that submitting an application without testing is the best way forward. At A-List, we provide holistic advising to match the holistic admissions review process. Submitting a test-optional application may be in a student’s best interest, however, this depends on how the other components of the application work together. Test-optional policies, especially by schools who are adopting them in reaction to a crisis, may not always help an applicant provide the most competitive admission profile. Before a student stops preparing for the SAT and ACT, we recommend considering the following:
1. Test-optional does not mean that testing will not be considered! It’s important to keep in mind that test-optional means students can choose to send scores. It does not mean that scores are wholly excluded from the school’s admissions process. Thus, if you are a student who does have the opportunity to take the test, then a school will hope to see a strong score.
2. A test-optional policy does not mean that a school has become less competitive! Some people have interpreted test-optional admissions as an “easier” application process. This is not the case! In fact, without testing as a component of the application, other information is given more weight– which often makes the process more competitive. Without testing, your grades, extracurricular activities, and leadership positions will be scrutinised more closely.
3. Strong testing will still be an asset for a student’s application at schools with test-optional policies. Students who can attain a high score, should continue to prepare and plan on taking official tests when new dates are released. Strong test scores will always help a student’s application.
Many students are concerned that they may never have the opportunity to demonstrate what they know on the SAT or ACT. Certainly, the test date cancellations were frustrating. However, there will be tests! The ACT and the SAT have announced new dates. Also, when there have been past cancellations, both testing groups have added additional dates to accommodate students.
If you have questions about whether you should pursue a test-optional pathway to a US school or continue with your test preparation, please feel free to reach out to an A-List advisor. We are happy to answer your questions so you can make an informed decision.
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