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  • Writer's pictureAlison Merzel

To test or not to test....

As you probably are aware, the biggest change to college admissions in the past year was the move by a majority of schools to "test optional" admissions. In test optional admissions, colleges will use the scores to evaluate the applicant if they are submitted; if the applicant does not submit test scores, the application will be reviewed without them and, ideally, without penalty. Test optional is different from "test blind" or "test free" - in these scenarios, the colleges will not consider scores even if they are submitted. Here is a list of schools that currently practices test blind admissions.

When the announcement first came about test optional admissions, there was a big concern about whether optional really meant optional or actually mean preferred. In response to this concern, Deans, VPs and Directors of Admissions/Enrollment at hundreds of colleges and universities affirmed their commitment to holistic admissions and to ensuring that no student would be disadvantaged without a test.

While some schools had been practicing test optional admissions for years, the arrival of the pandemic and the subsequent closure of schools and test centers made it impossible for some high school students to successfully sit for the ACT and/or SAT. In an effort to create a more level playing field for all applicants and to prevent families with the means to do so from traveling across the country to put their health at risk in order to access an open test site, colleges and universities decided to make the submission of the standardized test an option rather than a requirement. At the time of this decision, some colleges announced a one-year change to the admissions policy, while others indicated a three-year pilot. As of today, over one thousand schools have announced that they will remain test optional for Fall 2022 admissions.

So how did test optional admissions play out for Fall 2021? The regular decision applications are still being reviewed, so it is too early to talk about those outcomes. Schools have reported a significant percentage of applications coming in without test scores, though. To give just a few examples, the University of Southern California shared that 61% of Fall 2021 applicants were coming in without test scores. Penn State indicated that 60-70% of their applications were coming in without tests and more STEM students opted to submit them than students pursuing other majors. "Only" 37% of Georgia Tech's applicant pool opted to apply without tests - this makes sense given the STEM focus of the applicant pool and the likelihood that these students are stronger standardized test takers (particularly on math) who would want to submit their scores.

Anecdotally, from speaking to other educational consultants, it seems that the students who opted to apply early without tests did fairly well. One might argue that the test taker pool was even more competitive, as those who submitted tests would have only sent in strong scores. I certainly saw strong test takers receive defer decisions from early application rounds and it is still too soon to learn about the final outcomes.

So what do you do if you are applying for Fall 2022? I still stand by my previous advice - if you can take one or both of the tests, do it. If your score can help you in the admissions process, use it. If you are applying to a test optional school and the score isn't doing you any favors, lose it.

Having fun yet? :)

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