Test optional yes or no

More Colleges Go Test Optional. Should We Care?

Recently, Columbia University announced their test optional policy is now permanent. Miami University of Ohio announced they were extending their test optional until 2025. This means that all applicants can decide to submit (or not to submit) an ACT or SAT test score with an application. On the flip side, Purdue and MIT have reversed previous temporary test optional policies and now require a test score.

The media loves to cover everything test optional, and the news about Columbia was everywhere. Does the media coverage do an unfair service to families by making it seem like test scores are no longer necessary?

In January 2024, the media coverage started to swing the other way, and highly selective colleges began talking about test scores being predictive of student success in their schools. Dartmouth announced a change to requiring testing beginning Fall 2025 in February 2024.

Families are left not knowing whether or not their child should take the ACT or SAT.

When presented with story after story about colleges going test optional, many parents and students think pretty simplistically – “my child no longer needs any test scores to apply to college.” (Insert optional “woo hoo!” here.) This concept can be reinforced by conversations with other parents who read the same media and think the same thing. But this thinking is not correct or complete, and it has been causing a lot of stress for families.

A Missed Opportunity

Admission counselors will tell you that opting out of taking the ACT and/or SAT is a missed opportunity.

Yes, if you take the tests and your test score does not reflect your academic abilities, then you would not elect to submit it. In a world of truly test optional admissions, not having a test score will not impact your application. Test optional does mean just that—optional. And it was built for strong students with a strong application…and a low test score.

However, missing the chance to share a high test score as a part of your college application is truly missing that opportunity to shine. Strong test scores continue to strengthen an application, and students who do not take an exam are shortchanging a potential advantage.

What are strong test scores?

We encourage students to sit for both exams, see which they prefer, and use that score to compare with a college’s middle 50% test scores.

You can find that information with a simple Google search. The middle 50% ACT score range at Ohio State’s main campus is 29-34. These scores are high. A perfect ACT score is 36. The range certainly reflects the increasing competitiveness of Ohio State. If your student can achieve a score at the high side of this range, they have a little something extra to demonstrate they are ready for the rigors of college.

College applications are about much more than test scores.

But keep this in mind–a high score is a little like winning an award. If you don’t win an award, your college application will still be great.

However, if you did win an award, your application is even stronger. Bottom line? If you never try, you will never know if you have the chance to win that award or achieve a high score test score that can strengthen your application.

Need help creating a strong ACT/SAT testing game plan for your student? Check out our testing webinar.


Updated 2/2024

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