Why ACT and SAT scores matter at test optional colleges
Students and parents often misunderstand how admissions work at test optional colleges, thinking they are a get-out-of-jail-free card for those who dislike standardized testing. But the reality is just the opposite.
On its web site, every college provides a list of credentials that applicants must supply in order to be considered for admission. A test optional college does not have ACT or SAT scores on that list. Period. But what does that mean?
The credentials listed on the college web site are the minimum set that students must supply. What if you won a poetry contest in school, would you submit that credential? What if you were chosen as captain of a sports team, would you submit that credential? What if you are a soloist in your church choir, would you submit that credential? Lastly, what if you are applying to a test optional college and you did very well on the ACT or SAT, would you submit that credential? The answers are YES, YES, YES and YES!
Test optional colleges do not require test scores. They also do not require you to tell them about poetry contest winnings, sports team captains, or soloists in church choirs. These are credentials that students submit in order to enhance their applications. Applicants to test optional colleges use standardized test scores in the same way, as a credential to enhance their applications.
Now that you understand what test optional really means, you may not be surprised to hear that the more competitive test optional colleges receive standardized test scores from a large percentage of their applicants. That is because the quality of the applicants is higher than average and those applicants often have higher than average test scores that they will submit to enhance their applications. If you do not have high test scores you will not submit that particular credential, but you can submit other credentials that other applicants may not have, like winning the poetry contest.