Test Optional Proves More Popular among College Applicants

by Alex Lacey ’24

In recent years, an increasing number of colleges and universities across the United States have moved towards becoming “test optional.” This means that applicants are not required to submit standardized test scores, such as the SAT or ACT, as part of their application. According to the publication The Hill, schools that require test scores are down from 55 percent in 2019 to less than 5 percent currently. The Hill also reported that fewer than half of students in the Class of 2023 who applied Early Decision to college submitted standardized test scores, according to an analysis by the nonprofit that publishes the Common Application. This figure is down 80 percent from just four years ago.
This shift from non-optional to optional scores changes preparation for college, especially for students with high GPAs who don’t necessarily need to show high SAT or ACT scores to get into college.
“If the school is test optional, it depends on the student’s scores,” advises College and Career Counselor Joe Hock. “For example, UMD’s average accepted applicant has a 4.4 WGPA and a 1350-1450 SAT. If the student has a 1200 and a 4.5 WGPA, I would say they might want to apply for the test optional.”
Counselor Amarah Faizan advises students who are considering whether to submit scores or not to see if their scores are above the college’s average. She adds that most colleges and universities have become used to evaluating students’ applications without the scores.  “When a student does not submit a test score to an optional school, schools do not factor in a test score that was not submitted and they will look at the application materials that were submitted,” said Faizan.
One reason why test optional schools are changing where rising seniors are applying is that the removal of standardized test scores as a requirement has leveled the playing field for applicants. Historically, students from wealthier families could afford expensive test prep courses and tutors, giving them an advantage in the admissions process. However, by removing the requirement for test scores, colleges and universities are able to consider a wider range of factors in their admissions decisions, such as extracurricular activities, essays, and letters of recommendation. This has opened up opportunities for students who may not have been able to afford test prep courses to compete on a more equal footing.
The trend towards test optional admissions reflects a growing recognition that standardized test scores are not always the best indicator of an applicant’s academic potential or future success. Some critics argue that standardized tests are biased against certain groups of students, such as those from low-income backgrounds, non-native English speakers, and students with disabilities. By removing the test score requirement, colleges and universities are able to consider a more holistic view of an applicant’s academic and personal achievements, rather than just a single test score.
As current Sherwood High School juniors head into the summer before their senior year, they will have the opportunity to decide whether to submit their SAT or ACT schools, or even pick and choose which colleges to send the scores to or not.
“I had no clue that scores were optional at some schools,” said Sherwood junior Andy Ruiz. “It’s not a big deal for me, but it may affect one or two schools I apply to.”