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No SATs: Understanding Test Optional Admission, Part 1

January 20, 2017

There is a popular myth that test scores are the most important factor in getting accepted to U.S. universities. Higher SAT or ACT scores = a greater chance to be accepted, right? Wrong.

While test scores like the SAT and ACT can be an important factor for admission to some schools, there are many U.S. colleges and universities that have become test optional. “Test optional” means that the school does not require standardized tests (SAT or ACT) as part of the application for admission.

So, how do test optional schools choose students? These schools have decided that test scores are not the best way to predict future success.  Instead, these schools use the other pieces of the application to choose their students. Transcripts, essays, recommendations, activity lists, and interviews, are some of the pieces that schools can use to choose the right students for their campuses.

For some students, test optional schools can open up new opportunities. For instance, students that cannot take (or re-take) a test due to cost or availability, students who are still improving their English language abilities, or students who suffer from test anxiety, have the same opportunity to apply and be fairly evaluated.

While test optional schools offer opportunity, test optional policies can be confusing.  Some schools are completely test optional for all students in all situations. Other schools are test optional only for certain students, certain majors, or certain programs – sometimes this is called “test flexible.” Still other schools are test optional for admission only, but not for scholarship or financial aid.  In those cases students must submit test scores to be eligible for funding.  Students considering test optional schools need to carefully review the test optional policy at each school to which they are applying.

If you are interested in exploring test optional admission, we will be adding blog posts about how to find test optional schools.