Low test scores? These colleges don’t care.

July 30, 2014

Reynolda Hall and Hearn Plaza, on the campus of Wake Forest University.In the past few years, and increasing number of selective colleges and universities have adopted test-optional policies, no longer requiring students to submit their standardized test scores.  Institutions eliminating or de-emphasizing standardized tests often cite a lack of confidence in the SAT’s and ACT’s   ability to predict college success and/or a desire to improve campus diversity (although a widely publicized College Transitions study shows that test optional polices may not increase the enrollment of underrepresented students).  Test-optional schools are still a minority in American higher education, but their numbers are growing and now include several highly desirable and ultra-competitive institutions.

College Transitions recently published a complete list of selective, test-optional colleges.  Please click here to see which colleges have done away with standardized test requirements.

To Submit or Not Submit

Before deciding whether to submit your standardized test scores to a test-optional college, it’s important to consider the following:

Can other information within your application sufficiently demonstrate your potential and strengths? It’s not enough to simply compare your standardized test scores against those of the average incoming student.  You should also take a serious look at other components of your application. Determine whether your grades, essays, and/or extracurricular record can truly distinguish you as an applicant and move your prospective colleges to vote “yes.” These application materials will be heavily scrutinized now that your admissions officers are without an essential piece of information, which although bias, can still provide for meaningful comparisons between you and the rest of the applicant pool.

Are test scores required or recommended for merit scholarship consideration? Several test-optional colleges still award merit aid on the basis of standardized test scores, at least in part.  If you’re needy and/or cost-conscious, make sure you understand the financial implications of withholding your test scores.  We advise you to contact the admissions offices at each of your prospective test-optional colleges to determine whether merit aid is tied to standardized test performance, and if so, to what extent.

Are my prospective colleges test-optional or test-flexible? There are a number of selective colleges, including Brandeis, Bryn Mawr, Colby and NYU, that do not require the SAT or ACT, but still require applicants to submit results from one or more other exams, such as AP or IB exams and SAT subject tests.  Before developing an admissions strategy, make sure that you are familiar with the exact testing requirements at each of your prospective colleges and that you learn whether the submission of test scores is truly optional.