Written by Jane White and Annie Wagner

While taking the SAT or ACT has practically been a rite of passage for college-bound high school students of the past, many current juniors have questioned whether it is worth it to take the test at all. While the answer to this question varies for every student, if safety concerns or test cancellations stop you from submitting a score; we believe there is no need to stress. 

Though there has been some speculation that not submitting your scores puts you at a disadvantage, this year’s round of applicants suggest this isn’t the case. Many seniors from the class of 2021 were able to get into the schools they’d expected to, even without a score. Senior Piper Mueller, who did not submit a score and who will be attending Vanderbilt University in the fall said, “Seeing the results of this year, I definitely think it’s not something to stress about. If you have good grades, good recommendation letters, and good extracurriculars, it will be fine… I have so many friends that applied without scores that have gotten into Cal Poly, University of Michigan, Southern Methodist University, and Texas Christian University.”

The main reason why submitting a score shouldn’t be a source of stress is because the majority of four-year universities are extending test-optional or test-blind policies to their admissions process. Colleges with test-optional policies will consider your score if you submit one, and typically look more closely at other parts of your application if you decide not to. A college with a test-blind policy will not consider your test score, even if you submit it. A list of four-year university test policies is linked here. 

The college admissions process is holistic, meaning there are many elements to your application that make you qualified to attend a college. As a result of this, not having a test score isn’t a deal-breaker considering your grades, essays, recommendations, and extracurriculars are typically enough of an indicator to colleges as to what type of student you are. 

Harvard University’s test-optional policy, as well as many four-year universities’, demonstrates this. It states, “Students who do not submit standardized testing this coming year will not be disadvantaged in the application process. Their applications will be considered on the basis of what they have presented, and they are encouraged to send whatever materials they believe would convey their accomplishments in secondary school and their promise for the future.”

AVID and Marine Biology teacher Erika Shepard added, “Regardless of whether you submit a test score; focus on your GPA! The minimum GPA for CSU’s has been raised to a 2.5 with the removal of the test score requirement, so focus on your current classes. Long-term commitments to extracurriculars are another way to demonstrate your reliability and dedication, and they often open up scholarship opportunities as well!”

While some students have been “lucky” enough to take the test, considering roughly 100 juniors were able to take the SAT on M-A’s campus on March 24th and more are scheduled to do so April 13th and 27th, in-person testing is still unpredictable. For example, the March 13th, 2021 SAT date was cancelled nationally, and staggering covid-19 rates may make taking another test down the line difficult as well.

Junior Cate Whittaker, who has been preparing to take the ACT for her college applications, has been one of the many students who have been unable to take the test due to cancellations. She said, “I planned to take the ACT in December of 2020 after prepping since September, but it was cancelled nine days before. The same exact thing happened with my second ACT date in February 2021, except this time it got cancelled five days in advance. I was genuinely let down that it got cancelled because I really wanted to get one of them done and I was so sick of ACT tutoring.”

Many students have had similar experiences. College counselor Heather Lowe added, “The Common App, which over a million students used this year for college applications, just released data indicating that as of February 15, 2021, more than half (56%) of applicants did not apply with a test score this application cycle.” 

Though not taking or submitting a standardized test for college admissions likely won’t hurt you, there are some instances where you should consider doing so if possible or safe enough. The first would be if that score would make you stand out as an applicant. Lowe said, “If a student and their family have discussed that they feel safe taking on the risk of testing, and the student has scored well on practice tests, then it could be a helpful piece of data in their college application.” 

Though unlikely, if the college you are looking at has test score based aid or scholarships available that you’d possibly want, then maybe consider taking the SAT or ACT.  

College admissions and the COVID-19 pandemic have been unpredictable, but colleges understand and accommodate for this. Lowe ended with, “You can be competitive in the college admissions process without an SAT or ACT score at test-optional colleges.” 

 

Jane White

Jane White is a senior and an Editor-in-Chief of the M-A Chronicle. Over the course of her time in digital journalism, she has enjoyed writing personal opinions and research-heavy features. In her free time, Jane loves to catch up on her reading, hang out with friends, and play guitar. This year, Jane is looking forward to bringing journalism back to the classroom and making connections with her staff and the M-A community.

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