As with many other things, admission processes for many universities have been uprooted due to the ongoing coronavirus. Now a plethora of colleges are offering test optional policies; however, taking advantage of these policies may not be the best option for all students.
Before this year, only a few colleges offered test-optional programs. Now, virtually every college offers this alternative, which is intended to benefit students who may have test anxiety or those who want to promote other admirable qualities on their resume.
“Some people are really good test takers and that works to their benefit,” Nanditha Ramesh (12) said. “On the other hand, some people know the information really well, but may not do so well on tests, which isn’t a proper reflection of their capabilities in their test scores.”
To many, this can sound like a huge relief. However, before immediately deciding that this is the route to take, consider what this policy really means. This does not simply allow you to bypass the lengthy process of perfecting ACT and SAT scores.
“Prior to the test-optional policies I didn’t have a score on any test, but test-optional didn’t dissuade me from taking at least one test as I thought it would still be beneficial to take it if I had the opportunity,” Jake Du (12) said.
If students really believe not submitting test scores is the only opportunity for them, packing their resume with numerous extracurriculars is essential.
“It puts much more weight on students’ essays and their extracurriculars, as you can’t disadvantage those without scores. It will definitely be interesting to see the outcome of this upcoming cycle,” Du said.
However, the time spent doing extracurriculars could be better spent perfecting a test score, if the student needs financial aid.
“Although test-optional may be beneficial to many, I think it’s important to keep in mind that this policy mainly only applies for admissions to the university or college. Most colleges still require and consider standardized test scores for merit scholarships,” Ramesh said.
Every college has different policies and scholarship requirements, so conducting the necessary research beforehand is imperative to the application process.
“Look at what your schools have offered [in the past] and know your numbers. If you’re going test-optional, make sure you have everything they are looking for on time. If you’re close to your ACT or SAT goal, you may want to continue to test, because that may be the easiest way to get money,” guidance counselor Leslie Fleming said.
Since scoreless applications have to be analyzed more carefully regarding rigor of classes, extracurriculars and recommendations, the process is much lengthier, and students do not have the comfort of knowing they are guaranteed acceptance or scholarships.
“Before, you had numbers to understand your playing field. For the University of Memphis, a 25 ACT and 3.0 GPA gave you $3,000. Without having real numbers, you might not have real information for quite a while, you may not know what your financial aid package looks like as early,” Fleming said.
If a student has good test scores, they are still welcome to submit them. For students who are hesitant to submit test scores, schools cannot hold that against them, but accepting a student who is proud of their scores may seem like the safer option for admissions officers.
“Make sure you are familiarizing yourself with the policy of the school and understand [if] it is test optional for acceptance or for scholarship. Consider how many test optional positions there are there. Students are really going to have to research what their colleges want,” Fleming said.
Without learning about this new form of admissions, students with test anxiety may disregard testing. This attitude could cost them money or even a place in college without the proper knowledge.
“For students that do shine in their test scores, they can still submit their test scores,” Fleming said. “So they haven’t really lost or gained anything.”