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How Important Are SAT, ACT Scores in College Admissions? | Education

Taking the SAT or ACT is often a source of stress for students, as some spend weeks or months preparing, trying to score high enough to get into their ideal college. But now, many schools de-emphasize these standardized test scores in the admissions process and instead focus on other factors, such as GPAs and essays.

About 1,750 four-year colleges and universities have announced plans to conduct optional or test-blind testing in the fall of 2023, according to preliminary statistics from the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, commonly known as FairTest. The trend, while not new, was accelerated by the coronavirus pandemic as many students were unable to access testing sites.

Colleges also recognize “there’s a correlation between income and test scores,” said Dana Rolander, a certified educational planner and founder of Midwestern Ohio College Consulting.

“Students from more disadvantaged and less privileged groups have less access to test prep, so it’s not considered a level playing field for kids from different backgrounds,” she added.

Test optional vs. test blind

“It’s definitely going to benefit students whose standardized tests aren’t their strong suit,” said Anna Ivey, founder of Ivey Consulting, a college and graduate school consulting firm.

“We all know people who are academically gifted, they’re just not very good standardized test takers,” Ivey said. “It’s a very real phenomenon. So it’s a good thing that people can now choose whether or not they want to have this part of their profile.”

Less common are the test-blind or test-free policies being used by the University of California system and schools such as Loyola University New Orleans in Louisiana and Worcester Polytechnic Institute in Massachusetts. These policies mean that even if a student submits SAT or ACT scores, the school will not consider it in the application process.

These policies usually come with caveats. For example, a college may claim to be optional but still require certain programming or scores from out-of-state applicants. Some test-optional schools even consider test scores when determining merit scholarship recipients.

“Unfortunately, students have to dig around to make sure they see all the fine print because every school has its own policy,” Ivey said.

How universities review applications

“Test scores tend to validate other parts of the application,” Rolander said. “But high school transcripts are always more important than test scores.”

Transcripts are evaluated on a case-by-case basis, as some high schools offer different types of advanced courses. This means that if your high school doesn’t have AP or the International Baccalaureate program, it won’t work against you.

Schools — especially those with full admissions — also focus on other parts of the application, including extracurricular activities, classroom rigor, letters of recommendation, and responses to essay prompts.

“Outcomes are never about SAT scores. The world is never like that when it comes to admissions,” Rowland said.

Dan Kwon, senior vice president of admissions counseling at FLEX College Prep, noted that essays are becoming increasingly important in the college admissions process.

An essay helps “understand who you are, the values ​​you hold and how you fit into their environment,” he says. “It reveals your maturity, your ability to reflect, and more importantly, your goals and ambitions. Admissions officers make a genuine effort to find students who can best achieve those goals and fit into a given context. Because for better or worse, they are It’s okay not to accept everyone.”

Should I still submit my scores?

College admissions experts encourage nearly every student to take the SAT or ACT at least once, unless there is a significant access barrier​​​or text anxiety. Eligible students are eligible for fee waivers for both exams, and eligible students also receive application fee waivers at some universities.

Based on your performance, you can decide whether to submit your score. Both the SAT and ACT have the option to cancel scores if the test fails, for example, if a student fills out an answer sheet incorrectly or fails to complete the test.

If a student takes the SAT or ACT more than once, some colleges require submission of all results from the corresponding test. Others are automatically overscored, which means that a student’s highest scores for each section across all test attempts are combined to create a new composite score.

Experts recommend looking for the “middle 50” — the range of scores between the 25th and 75th percentiles of the last admitted class — on each college’s website — to see if your score falls in that range within or above.

“If you’re in the top half of that band or above, those scores will help you,” Ivey said. “But if you’re in the bottom half of that grade or below, those scores don’t help you. So unless there’s some other unrelated reason you should submit them, I’d say don’t submit them. My general rule because people are only in the Submit your scores only as needed or helpful to you.”

In the fall 2021 college application cycle, approximately 20% of applicants did not record SAT or ACT scores, according to data From the College Board Admissions Research Consortium, a nonprofit that administers the SAT. Half submitted SAT or ACT scores, and 30% had scores but chose not to submit.

“Keep in mind that I think the test-optional policy is driving an increase in applications, especially at elite colleges,” Rowland said. “Because students who might otherwise not have applied because of their lower test scores now sometimes feel like they have a better chance of admission, especially if their grades and other parts of the application are good.”


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