How Do I Go About Test Optional Schools?

How Do I Go About Test Optional Schools?

Josie Graves, Journalist

As the class of 2021 or 2022, we have seen a variety of unprecedented decisions being made in a frantic attempt to limit the severities of a year ridden with obstacles. And though they are intended to lessen the blow, we are beginning to see them as additional stressors in the already overwhelming days of our Junior and Senior years.

Living in a world where fundamental change occurs on a daily basis, making decisions that will ultimately guide us into the future chapters of our lives has become much more difficult than it has been for past generations. And as the college admissions process becomes even more daunting, we now have a never before seen scenario to consider: test-optional schools.

Being among the first generation of “guinea pigs’’ in this experiment of a world without standardized testing can be a confusing and burdensome place to find yourself. However, depending on your perspective, forgoing the SAT or ACT may lend itself to be either beneficial or detrimental. 

So how should you go about making this decision?

Like choosing the correct University for you, it should not be one taken lightly. It would be much more constructive to take the time to think about the pros and cons then simply jump at the opportunity to abstain from taking the exam. For a vast majority of students, the prospect of not having to go through the painstaking process of studying and sitting through a four-hour-long test seems like a dream. But for others, not having scores in their back pocket in case the need for them arises, is a nagging thought. 

Danielle Killeen, a senior at Columbine High School, explained that this was the main factor in her decision to go through with the exam. As a dedicated student-athlete, Danielle was intent on taking up every opportunity allowed to her in order to make the most out of her final year of high school. Even with being a prospective recruit for many universities, she explained that there was very little point in not taking the SAT or ACT when, this year, it can only help. A main focal point in her argument was that, if you don’t like your scores, don’t send them in. However, with covid-19 causing constant cuts to athletic programs, she wanted to be sure that she was prepared when applying for a school that may or may not have altered policies in regard to this subject. 

As of now, especially with test centers beginning to reopen across the country, taking the opportunity to have SAT or ACT scores even if you don’t use them seems to be the best option. In an interview with Ms. Dewald, a college advisor at South High School, she was more than willing to put her time into giving any advice that would help ease the strain that comes with any major decision. When asked about the pros of getting test scores, Ms. Dewald pointed out that a common gain that could arise for students is the ability to show colleges and universities how they are applying themselves to progress in areas of academic skill. This would allow students, especially those with a lower than desired GPA, to display their strengths and improvements. Ms. Dewald also mentioned that scores from these standardized tests may lead to merit money for the scholar when applying. Another plus for anyone still on the fence. 

One saving grace this year and of test-optional schools is if you are able to take the exam it is your choice if the score you receive will be sent to your top colleges. It may be favorable to be able to go into filling out an application with the results already known. Ms. Dewald was keen on pointing out that you should always check to see the standard midpoint for scores at your chosen institution. If you fall on or above that line then sending in scores would bein the best interest of the student. She also mentioned that for some people, scores are a better representation of a student’s ability to perform academically than their GPA shows. 

For those still undecided or who are in favor of forgoing standardized testing altogether, this final question may be of some importance for you. Does the exclusion of test scores have an impact on how universities view your application, negatively or positively? Ms. Dewald’s answer in short, no. Her reasoning manifests from the facts of living through a pandemic. Because of closures to test centers nationwide, test-optional schools cannot penalize any prospective students because of their inability or refusal to send in scores. Though this may seem like common sense as it is only fair, many have stressed their concerns regarding this issue. These students in particular fear that another candidate may be accepted over them because they decided to include scores. But in no way can a university hold any decision made regarding test scores against the student. This being said, Ms. Dewald also explained that students must know the difference between test-optional and test-blind schools. They are not the same and cannot be treated as such. Students should check with their specific university regarding their regulations on standardized testing. 

Though 2020 has come with a variety of obstacles, thrown our way in a year where we need each and everything to go perfectly, it is not to say that each change should be seen as a hindrance. Junior and Senior can be unarguably the most stressful years of our lives and living them throughout a pandemic only adds another stressor. With the college process becoming ever more daunting we are forced to plan out and make major decisions, paying mind how each outcome will impact our futures. However, many generations before have successfully navigated this process and just because we are the first to be introduced to test-optional schools should not affect our ability to do the same. Each student should weigh the pros and cons, check with the universities for which they intend to apply, and be confident in their decision to either forgo taking a standardized test or to include their scores. There are benefits to each choice, but what would be favorable for each student is dependent on your situation. Take the time, do the research, and go into making your decision with the facts in mind. 


Works Cited

Muniz, Hannah. Test-Optional Colleges: Complete List of 900  Schools,

“SAT.” SAT Suite of Assessments, 16 Oct. 2020,

“What You Need to Know About Test-Optional Schools.” Galin Education, 12 Sept. 2018,