The Rise of Test-Optional Admissions

Uncategorized May 26, 2020

In October 2019, PBS Newshour reported that every ten days, on average, another university implements SAT/ACT test-optional policies. Cancelled SAT and ACT test dates and economic woes in the age of COVID-19 have only accelerated the test-optional movement in the US, as compelling data continues to emerge suggesting that parents' economic status is a greater predictor of test scores than students' ability to succeed in college. Instead, test-optional policies are increasingly allowing colleges to gain more diverse pools of capable, talented applicants.


The California State University and University of California systems have recently announced plans to go test optional. In addition to the largest university systems in the US, smaller private colleges, such as Tufts University, are announcing new "test-optional policies" for the next few years to help families that have been impacted. However, other elite institutions, such as Vanderbilt University have announced that it will not be adopting a test-optional policy due to the pandemic. Furthermore, it remains to be seen how test-optional policies will continue to affect merit scholarships, which may be partially determined by student's GPA and SAT/ACT scores. Merit scholarships, which can add up to nearly twenty thousand per year, can play a pivotal role in deciding which offers of admission to accept.


One thing is clear: after nearly a century of the SAT's pivotal role in admissions, standardized testing is on the decline as GPA, academic rigor, leadership–among other criteria–become more prominent in the college admissions process.


So, should students still study and plan to take the SAT and ACT in 2020? To increase opportunities in college admissions while remaining eligible for merit scholarships, the short answer is "yes".


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