Since 2020 the role that standardized testing plays in admissions has shifted dramatically. Covid and attention to the socio-economic fairness of standardized testing precipitated colleges choosing test-optional admissions; the California college system actually embraced test-blind admissions. The nuances of these changes, college to college, are important to consider as a student crafts his applications to reflect personal accomplishments and goals.
In 2020, only 24% of applicants submitted test scores. One consequence of this was that the mid-50th %ile for tests jumped at many colleges; some registered a gain of 100 points! This has created a slightly unreliable piece of data, and so we recommend looking at the history of scores at colleges. As more students test and submit scores, this statistic should become more realistic. And although colleges claim to be test optional, it is important to carefully read the language on testing. Georgetown, for instance, would prefer to receive standardized test scores, a clear inference from “reading between the lines” of their application requirements page. Lastly, not all admissions last year appear to be unbiased. Admit rates for students with scores were higher at some institutions, but there are nuances to these statistics as well!
SOME CONSIDERATIONS FOR THE STUDENT
Currently, three-fourths of US colleges are test optional, so the questions to test — or not to test –and to send — or not to send are key decisions for students. Some students know that they would rather work on their grades and activities than spend time on the prep and test-taking. For most students, though, it is important to at least consider testing! Speaking to a professional (your school or independent counselor) can help you in this decision.
- ACT and SAT test scores should be considered in the context of the other important parts of a student’s application (rigor of courses, grades, extracurricular activities) and also within the context of a student’s high school. If, for example, standardized test scores contribute in some way to a student’s application “story,” then sending makes sense.
- But another scenario is when a student’s grades (GPA) appear strong but his standardized test scores are significantly below his high school’s average (listed in the high school profile), then sending scores to colleges may not be the right move.
- The choice of major is also important! Math scores are major-specific (business and STEM) and some colleges’ testing profiles reflect this.