Should My Child Take the ACT or SAT for a Test Optional School?
While some colleges adopted test optional or test blind policies well before we’d ever heard of COVID-19, many more made the move after the pandemic’s onset. We’ll help you understand what these policies mean for your child’s college applications process.
Test Optional Vs Test Blind
A test optional school doesn’t require ACT or SAT scores. However, if a student includes scores as part of their application, the admissions team will consider them in their evaluation. This is the policy for the majority of U.S. universities.
A test blind college does not require ACT or SAT scores and will not acknowledge them if they are submitted with an application. Only a small percentage of schools are test blind (including the entire University of California system).
As the pandemic continues, schools assess their test policies every year. Some have returned to requiring ACT or SAT scores, so it’s important to check university websites or give the admissions office a call for the latest updates.
Where does this leave your child when it comes to taking the ACT or SAT? It depends. Here are some aspects to consider.
Solid test scores can enhance an application. If your child’s college list includes test optional schools, and they’re able to do well on the ACT or SAT, we recommend they take one (not both!) of those tests. You’ll want to start planning early to make sure that your child has enough time to prep (on their own or with a tutor) and register for the date and location they want.
A practice test is a risk-free way of seeing how your child is likely to do on the real test. Our detailed score report will provide information about strengths and weaknesses, and our tutoring timeline will map out the time needed to achieve a goal score.
Additional Important Factors
It’s easy to have tunnel vision when it comes to ACT or SAT scores, but they are one piece of the admissions puzzle. The elements below are vital parts of a strong college application, and they should be part of the conversation when making decisions about the ACT or SAT.
GPA and rigor – Talk with any school counselor or independent college consultant, and they’ll tell you that a student’s grade point average and rigor of curriculum are at the top of the list for college admissions officers. That information indicates how a student performs over time and on various assignments and assessments.
Extracurricular activities, community involvement, work, and family responsibilities – These also factor into admissions decisions. Admissions officers don’t just admit individuals, they build classes. They want to know what each student will potentially contribute to and learn from their college community. You don’t want your child to neglect these opportunities.
When to Test
If your child will take the ACT or SAT, it’s smart to make a plan the summer ahead of junior year. For some students, it might work best to take the ACT or SAT first semester, but other students may benefit from waiting until the spring. While it’s fine to take a test at the beginning of senior year, we prefer to save those dates for “one more try” to reach a goal score. Taking the test junior year also allows students to focus on college application essays in the late summer and early fall going into senior year. Thinking through all of this before junior year will help your child feel calmer and more confident!
The challenges of the past few years have made it even more important for teenagers to care for their mental health. If dealing with the ACT or SAT will cause unhealthy anxiety for your child, curate a list of schools that you know will be test-blind or test-optional.
Balance and Guidance
Help your child assess and balance their priorities and schedule. And don’t be shy about seeking out guidance from your school counselor, independent college consultant, or even college admissions departments! What we’ve covered here is just a small part of the admissions process. These people will be able to share much more information about everything from the Common App to college visits.
This can be a good time for 1:1 tutoring, too. We have tutors who can help with test prep, academic subjects, executive functioning, and college application essays. Because the sessions are customized to your child’s needs, we can be flexible with how we support them. We want to reduce stress as much as possible while energizing the learning process! Give us a call.