Covid-19 has had a significant impact on college admissions. Many schools have now gone to being “test-optional,” which means students can submit SAT and ACT test scores if they would like, but they are not required to do so. This leaves many families with the same question, is it worthwhile for my student to take the SAT or ACT? While there are some scenarios where it may not benefit your student to take the SAT or ACT and submit their scores, here are 5 reasons why taking the SAT or ACT is a still a wise choice.
Reason #1 - Nearly all colleges would like to see your scores.
Regardless of what schools say, or the recent popularity of the "test optional" movement, the reality is that only 3.7% of U.S. colleges are “test-blind,” meaning they do not consider test scores. This means that 96.3% of U.S. colleges either require test scores, or will consider scores if submitted. For example, probably the most well-known example of a test-optional university is Harvard. However, when you look at their admissions website, you will see that they would indeed like to see your standardized test results if possible. The bottom line is that colleges prefer as much information as possible to make an admissions decision, and they consider standardized tests an important metric in evaluating applicants.
Reason #2 - Test scores are a better predictor of future success
Over the last 15-20 years, the average high school GPA has increased by 26%, and A recent national survey of K-8 parents found that 90% of parents believe that their child is achieving at or above grade level. Inflated GPAs can give parents and students an incorrect impression of academic readiness, and they make it more challenging for college admissions officers to differentiate among applicants. Good grades are certainly important; however, students will stand out if they have good test scores as well. Consider this excerpt from the Harvard admissions website:
"Given the wide variation in how students prepare for Harvard – as well as the fact that most applicants and admitted students have outstanding academic records – it is difficult for high school grades to differentiate individual applications." That does not mean that high school grades are unimportant. Students who come to Harvard have done well day to day in their high school studies, providing a crucial foundation for academic success in college, including a 97% – 98% graduation rate. SAT and ACT tests are better predictors of Harvard grades than high school grades.”
Reason #3 - Those who submit test scores likely have a better chance of earning admission.
According to the Future of Higher Education Newsletter, those who submit test scores are admitted at a rate that is often twice as much as those who do not submit test scores. Colleges will happily accept applications from anyone who wishes to submit one for two main reasons: 1) They receive application fees and 2) increased applications improve admissions selectivity statistics. High school GPA's can vary greatly by school, and are not as strong a predictor of academic success in college as test scores, so it puts more pressure on parents and students to show clear evidence of academic strength in other areas if scores aren't submitted. To have a successful application, students would be smart to include test scores that demonstrate their readiness for college-level work.
Reason #4 - Test scores can significantly impact scholarships.
For those seeking major merit awards at most major universities, the criteria often will include SAT and ACT scores. Many universities use a grid system to offer merit scholarships that use both GPA and test scores. For example, the University of Alabama offers a scholarship for students with perfect ACT/SAT scores that's valued at $112,000 over a four-year period. So if you have a high merit student, it's critical to understand how each of the schools your student is interested in handles awarding scholarships, so you can determine the value that taking the test could represent to your family.
Reason #5 - Colleges use test scores to determine your course placement.
Achieving certain section scores can allow students to place out of general education requirements, saving time and money. In addition, since the ACT and SAT are designed to measure how likely a student will be successful as a college freshman, taking the tests will highlight areas that students should improve so they can be successful in collegiate coursework.
It's getting harder and harder for families to cover the cost of college today, but families can make the cost more manageable by maximizing their student's chances for merit aid. The best way to do this is to line your student up to apply at schools where they will be the most "in demand" and one of the best ways to demonstrate that is through your student's test scores. Have other questions about paying for college or how to pick schools that will give your student the most financial aid, we are here to help! Schedule a call with us today to discuss your unique planning needs.
Mike Bink, AAMS®, CCFS®
Mike works with families to simplify the college funding process and is widely recognized as an expert in college planning. He is passionate about empowering families to become informed consumers of higher education so that they don't pay a penny more for college than they absolutely have to.