What is a Test-Optional College?

A test-optional college is one that looks at other factors when students apply for admission beyond what they scored on a standardized test. The ACT and SAT are the two common standardized tests that many colleges require students take before applying. Those schools use your test scores in combination with other factors to determine if you’re worthy of entering the school. You have the option of sending your scores to the college or letting the school weigh other factors instead. Though there are some benefits to these colleges, there are also some disadvantages.

Benefits of Not Using Test Scores

Not everyone does as well on standardized test scores as others, and some actually believe those tests are biased to certain cultural groups. If you do well in school but do poorly on tests, you can let the college weigh your application on other merits instead of just a simple score. Darcy Lewis of U.S. News & World Report points out that schools that do not require test scores can also improve their cultural and socioeconomic diversity. Students from poorer backgrounds and certain minority groups typically do not score well on these tests.

Related resource: 50 Great Schools Where High School Students Can Get College Credit

Disadvantages of Not Using Test Scores

The biggest disadvantage to not submitting your test scores is that this can actually reduce your chances of getting an acceptance letter. Your scores on those tests can predict how well you will do in school and show that you have strong time management and problem solving skills. Some students also need to submit scores to show that any bad grades they received in high school do not reflect their intelligence. Independent thinkers often do well in college and score high on standardized tests but do not do well in traditional high school classes.

When to Submit Your Scores

When you apply to a test-optional college, you might wonder whether to send in your scores. Before submitting those scores, see how well you performed in comparison to the general population. If you scored above the curve, submitting your scores can not only help you get into college but also help you qualify for scholarships for college. You should also submit your scores if you did well on one of the tests but did poorly in school. If you scored lower than you would like and have a high grade point average, you can safely submit your application without supplying the college with a test score.

Other Weighted Factors

Admissions counselors know that students are more than just a few numbers on a piece of paper, which is why they look at other factors beyond standardized test scores. These counselors look at your overall grade point average, your class ranking and the type of classes you took. Advanced placement and higher courses matter just as much as a test score does. Those counselors will also look at the extracurricular activities you did in high school and how well you answered the essay question given to you.

Colleges look for the best students and the brightest students, but some put too much importance on how well those students score on the ACT or SAT. When you apply to a test-optional college, you’ll find that the college lets you decide whether or not to submit your scores and that it weighs factors like class ranking and grades instead.