Top Schools Shifting Away from Standardized Tests

24 Jul 2017

The SAT. The ACT.  Does just the mention of standardized testing send a slight shiver up your spine? You know the drill: wake up early, grab some pencils and a snack, and drive over to the testing center. You have around three hours to bubble in answers and maybe write an essay, and then the waiting game starts. After several weeks, emails and envelopes arrive bearing news that will alter the course of your life. FOREVER!

Just kidding! Yes, ACTs and SATs are important. Yes, your score can affect your admission chances at many colleges, but this isn’t always the case! Admissions officers at a growing number of schools are starting to realize that they’ve been emphasizing these standardized tests too much. And they’re doing something about it. Prestigious universities, colleges, and research institutions are announcing themselves as test-flexible, test-optional, or in one case, test-blind.

Test-Flexible

Colorado College, New York University, as well as over a hundred other well-regarded schools are in this broad category. However, what the term test-flexible means is, well, flexible. It also can depend on your history, expected major, and school. Out of all your tests — AP, IB, SAT, ACT, and SAT subject tests — each school lets you know which ones to submit. If you plan on majoring in chemical engineering, for example, and you’re acing your STEM classes, then you might not have to submit SAT math scores. Do some research! Digging around admission requirement websites can save you time, money, and most importantly — stress!  

Test-Optional

These schools let you decide whether or not to submit ACT and SAT scores at all with your application. So should you? Well, that depends. If you have testing anxiety, are applying after taking a gap year, or feel that your scores don’t — or can’t —  describe you accurately, then these schools just might be your solution! Otherwise, seriously consider sending them in as they could give you a slight edge over other applicants.

Wake Forest University, Bowdoin College, University of Rochester, and dozens of other high-caliber institutions are test-optional. If you plan on applying to one of them, carefully look through their test policies a few months ahead of deadlines so you can plan accordingly.  

Test-Blind

As of summer 2017, one school has gone completely test-blind. Hampshire College of Massachusetts refuses to look at any ACT and SAT scores. But before you even think about cancelling any test dates, finish reading this! Hampshire places extra emphasis on transcripts, extracurriculars, and work experience to get a better idea of who you are.

This school — like the test-optionals and test-flexibles — receives higher amounts of applicants than the average colleges and universities. In other words, every piece of your final application will be studied in greater detail than if you added test scores. Don’t worry —  all this calls for is taking a little more time in making yours stand out. Tips and tricks that kick applications up a notch (or three!) are our specialty!

However…

Still take a test. Yes, right now it might sound easier to blow them off — but that is definitely not the best way to go. You don’t want to end up discovering your dream school a month before apps are due, only to find that you can’t apply without submitting SAT or ACT scores.

If anything else, you get the peace of mind from taking the tests and knowing that you have scores if they end up being necessary. Whether or not you end up submitting them is a decision best made with the help of parents, college counselors, and other people who know you really well. As that old cliche goes, you never know how well you will do until you try!

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