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To Test or Not to Test - Navigating a Test Optional Landscape

In our current test-optional environment, the decision to take the SAT is highly individual. And then if you take it, how do you decide whether or not to send your scores to your list of schools? It requires careful consideration of your personal academic strengths, college goals, and the specific requirements of the schools you're applying to. While the SAT can enhance your application, it is not the only path to college admission. Focus on building a strong, well-rounded application that highlights your unique strengths and achievements.

Test-optional policies mean that submitting SAT or ACT scores is not required for admission. Colleges that adopt this policy focus more on other aspects of your application, such as:

  • High School GPA and Course Rigor: Your academic performance and the difficulty of your coursework.

  • Extracurricular Activities: Involvement in sports, clubs, volunteering, and other activities, as well as opportunities for leadership.

  • Personal Essays: Insight into your personality, goals, and fit with the college. This is your opportunity to share about yourself in your own voice.

  • Letters of Recommendation: Endorsements from teachers, counselors, or mentors.

It's important to note that "test-optional" is not the same as "test-blind." Test-blind schools do not consider standardized test scores at all, even if submitted. Some test-optional schools may require additional items, such as an essay, if test scores are not submitted. 

Deciding whether to take the SAT depends on several factors:

  • College List: Research the admissions policies of the colleges you are interested in. If many of them are test-optional or test-blind, you might choose to focus on other aspects of your application. Although it might still be a good idea to take it, just in case you need it for scholarships or other programs.

  • Academic Record: If you have a strong GPA and a rigorous course load, you might not need the SAT to bolster your application. Conversely, if you want to offset a lower GPA, a good SAT score could help.

  • Preparation Level: Consider how prepared you are for the SAT. If you have the time and resources to prepare adequately, taking the test might be beneficial.

  • Personal Strengths: If you are confident in your test-taking abilities, submitting a high SAT score can be a positive addition to your application. 

When deciding whether or not to send your scores to test-optional schools, you will want to compare your scores to the current freshman class. There is generally not a score “requirement” for admission to most schools, but obviously the more elite the school, the higher the scores will be. If your scores are in the 75th percentile or higher for a particular school, submitting them may help your chances of admission. The general rule of thumb is that if your scores won’t help you, don’t send them.

If you decide to take the SAT, approach it with a strategic plan. Prepare thoroughly, practice consistently, and aim to achieve the best score possible. Remember, whether or not you submit SAT scores, your college application should reflect your true potential and readiness for higher education.


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