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  • Beverly Brutzkus

To Test or Not to Test

That is the question all my students and parents are asking!

A bit of background…

In 2020, most colleges announced that standardized tests would be an optional admission requirement for at least one year. According to Fair Test, two-thirds of 4-year colleges and universities in the U.S. did not require applicants to submit ACT or SAT scores for fall 2021 admission. Application submissions at the most completive campuses boomed!

During the past week Harvard, Cornell, University of Pennsylvania, Columbia, Northwestern and University of Virginia announced their test optional admissions policies would continue for Fall 2022 admissions. In a Washington Post article, University of Virginia President James E. Ryan was quoted as saying, “We want students to focus on things they can control: doing their best in school; cultivating their curiosity; contributing to their families, schools, and communities.

What is “test optional”?

According the Harvard Admissions’ website,

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. Applicants may choose to submit official test scores or self-report test scores if they so wish.”

In other words, optional means OPTIONAL! (Note: “Optional” is different from “Test Blind” which means your standardized test scores will not be considered).

Should I prepare to take a standardized test?

Should you still prepare to take the test? Will you be able to get a test date? Will the test be canceled? Will colleges require it? Will they consider your scores?

Here is where a crystal ball would be handy!

Since I don’t have a crystal ball, I have to say, “it depends” (not very helpful, I know!!). If you are a confident test taker and think your score would be an asset to your application, try to get a test date for the one format that best suits you (ACT or SAT). If you test poorly, think prepping would take time away from your coursework and your extracurriculars, have concerns regarding Covid-19, or have major anxiety about taking standardized tests, skipping it might be your best option.

Don’t forget that if you decide to not submit your standardized test scores, other factors in the admissions process will be more important. For example, Baylor University has said that without test scores, all students are "holistically reviewed for admission… including academic ability, mission fit and other variables."


· Schedule courses that challenge you to show rigor of curriculum

· Keep your grades up

· Continue to participate in extra-curricular activities that are meaningful

· Develop relationships with counselors and teachers that lead to positive letters of recommendations

· Prepare to write insightful essays and personal statements that show colleges all your wonderful qualities!

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