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  • Writer's pictureChris Tamis

Should I apply test-optional to college?


Amplified by the onset of the shutdowns caused by the pandemic, the policy of allowing students to apply to college without submitting standardized test scores is still part of the admissions landscape for 2023, and it is expected that this trend will continue. Whether this is good or bad depends on several factors, including each student's credentials, each college's selectivity, are test-optional applicants given equal consideration, and the academic profile of the overall applicant pool. What is right for one student is not necessarily suitable for another. It is also important to be aware that deciding to apply test-optional is not an all or none decision and is evaluated school by school.

A few years ago, the initial purpose of test-optional policies was to assist disadvantaged students who might not have the same access as others to prep courses and nearby test centers. During the Covid lockdown, this policy was expanded (for good reason) because most people couldn’t actually take the exam. Recently, there have been very few cancellations, and colleges are aware of that. While most schools have extended the test-optional policy for the 2023 season, target to selective schools still will be receiving scores from more than half of undergraduate student applicants (in 2022, approximately 50% of students applied test-optional compared to about 75% the year before). It is also important to note that last year was, once again, the most competitive application season ever! Many colleges saw (and continue to experience) considerable increases in the number of applications received. Several top-tier universities reported that when trying to make tough admissions decisions, often the inclusion of standardized test scores made the difference.

Simply put, there is no right or wrong answer to the question, “should I apply test-optional?” Like every decision you make, there are consequences to choosing not to submit SAT or ACT scores. Perhaps the most significant factor to consider is that by not submitting standardized test scores, you will increase the focus on all other parts of your application (especially your transcript). Another consideration is "test-optional" does not mean "test scores are not accepted." Trust me; plenty of students out there studied, were able to sit for multiple test dates and scored exceptionally well. Your application will be compared to theirs, and they will have that extra component in the application review process.

Every student must be aware that there are schools that are reversing this policy (and more colleges are expected to be added this year). Colleges that require either an SAT or ACT as part of the application include:


- University of Georgia

- Georgetown

- Georgia Tech

- The University of Tennessee

- Purdue

- All Florida public colleges

So, how do you handle this? As always, I recommend evaluating yourself honestly against each college's admissions stats. Review the mid-50th percentile scores (available in your CounselMore account) as a general guide. If you fall in the “range” (at or above the 50th percentile), submitting your scores would likely be the best choice. If you are well below what they have traditionally admitted, perhaps test-optional is the way to go. Be aware that applicants from underrepresented demographic groups (African-American, Hispanic, first-generation, or Native American) will likely benefit more if they apply test-optional than an economically advantaged white or Asian American. It is also important to remember that standardized test scores are just one component of what represents you as a potential acceptance.

You want your application to highlight your strengths and present you in the best possible light. Plan carefully and weigh your options when it comes to this critical decision.

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