One of the most dramatic shifts in education following the COVID-19 pandemic was the adoption of test-optional policies among colleges and universities nationwide. For the first time since their inception, exams like the SAT and the ACT were no longer considered a primary requirement for college admissions. This immediately begged the question:
Do the SAT and the ACT even matter anymore?
It’s more than a little understandable if the news of test-optional policies made most high schoolers cross the SAT/ACT off their list with a mixture of relief and joy. However, there are still plenty of important reasons to keep these exams on your radar. If anything, a test-optional college landscape means that these tests matter a lot more, and here’s why!
1. Good SAT/ACT scores will help you stand out from the crowd.
Among the challenges involved in putting together a solid college application is standing out from the thousands of other applicants. Naturally, a robust list of extracurricular activities and athletics can help you rise to the top of the Accepted list, but these factors aren’t nearly as effective as having an eye-catching set of outstanding SAT/ACT scores.
Admissions officers are looking for incoming freshmen who set high standards and goals for themselves. Moreover, if you don’t have to take these exams but choose to do so anyway, you are telling these schools that you are willing to add extra work to your plate and face it with determination and confidence. This is especially true of the more highly competitive schools on your college list.
2. Average SAT/ACT scores are dropping, lowering the bar for admissions.
As a result of test sites closing due to the pandemic, hundreds of high school students were unable to take the SAT or the ACT at all — hence the need for test-optional policies. An unexpected side effect of this predicament was that SAT/ACT scores have been on the decline, leading to a steady drop in average test scores.
This means that colleges and universities on the more competitive side now have a lower bar for admissions than in previous years. Having the opportunity to take the SAT or the ACT multiple times works in your favor here, because not every high-scoring student will be able to take these tests at all. Thus, taking the SAT/ACT in a test-optional environment places you on the inside track for admissions.
3. The SAT/ACT can still be used for scholarships and financial aid.
It’s worth pointing out that tests like the SAT and the ACT are not only used for admissions; colleges utilize test results for many other purposes, most notably financial aid. Even in a test-optional landscape, test scores are still being used to apply for grants and scholarships. What’s more, some institutions offer tuition discounts based on achieving a certain GPA or SAT/ACT score.
Even if these tests are optional for admissions, their benefits in terms of paying for college are massive!
4. Some colleges might go back to requiring the SAT/ACT.
If one aspect of the pandemic has remained consistent since March 2020, it’s been the unpredictability of how schools are responding to it. While many colleges and universities have announced their intention to continue test-optional policies through 2023, this is not going to be the case for every school. Plus, as more and more people continue to get vaccinated, the likelihood is that SAT/ACT test centers will be able to remain open for the foreseeable future, allowing colleges to return to making these tests a requirement.
COVID-19 has taught us all that the future is unwritten, so don’t assume that test-optional policies are here to stay. For some colleges, they might already be gone…
5. Test-optional policies mean a lot less pressure on Test Day!
Let’s face it — the SAT and the ACT are not easy. You have to sit there for three hours, answering a slew of multiple-choice questions with the added pressure of limited time and resources. But one of the biggest challenges for these exams has always been the amount of weight and pressure they carry when it comes to college admissions.
For decades, having strong SAT/ACT scores has been equally as important as maintaining a healthy average GPA. This amount of pressure can be overwhelming or even downright scary, but especially if these tests are required. But let’s think about the term “test-optional” for a moment: imagine a worst-case scenario in which you don’t score high on either of these tests. In fact, maybe you’re so disappointed in your scores that you decide not to send any of them out to your list of test-optional schools… So what’s the problem?
Test-optional means test-optional — without the added pressure of required SAT/ACT scores, these exams shouldn’t feel nearly as stressful to take. If you score high, then you’ll help your application enormously. If your scores are too low, then you don’t need to worry about the tests at all. Simply send out your application without it — you will still be accepted into a great school as long as the rest of your application is strong.
We’re here to help answer more of your questions about test-optional policies, and we can also help you boost your SAT/ACT scores to wow your prospective admissions officers. For a free consultation, click here to learn more.