Why You Should Take the "Optional" SAT/ACT Tests


Imagine this: Your favorite restaurant in town has closed down because the owners have decided to retire after four years, so you need a new place to eat. Unsure of where to go, you hop on the internet and start checking review sites. Several pop up, all boasting fine food and great atmosphere. But which is the best? A few are rated five stars, but upon further review, you notice that one place has three reviews whereas another has three hundred. Which place do you go to? Most likely, the one that has more five-star reviews.

Now let’s talk about college admissions.

Obviously students and restaurants are quite different, but the process by which we determine which place we eat on Friday night is pretty similar to how college admissions officers choose students for their incoming freshman classes. Basically, more data points matter.

Colleges often list the "requirements" to attend, but these requirements are set as a minimum. Sure, there are exceptions, such as having a high GPA/class rank, which would weigh more heavily on the decision to accept or reject, but generally, if something is listed as optional on a college’s application, you should still submit whatever it is.

That gets us to SAT and ACT scores.

Recently, in the wake of the covid-19 pandemic, many universities have (appropriately) suspended the requirement that students submit SAT/ACT scores. This is a great policy to show respect to the thousands of students who have been prevented from taking these tests. However, at the end of the day, these scores will be an important part of contextualizing your grades, GPA, and class rank.

Remember that Friday night restaurant? Three 5-star reviews vs. three hundred 5-star reviews?

Consider two students:

Student A submits transcript, essay, and brief resume.

Student B submits transcript, essay, expanded resume, SAT score, ACT score, and letters of recommendation.

Student A is ranked 10, wrote an average essay, and pieced together a list of club roles.

Student B is ranked 30, wrote interesting essays and resume, 1400 SAT, 32 ACT, and glowing rec letters.

This is a simplification of the process, since there are various considerations, but the overall point is that anything you can do to set yourself apart is a worthwhile pursuit. The SAT and ACT are some of the key data points that colleges use to accept students, and while they are listed as "optional" (in many cases out of respect for what is going on with the pandemic), these scores will be influential.

If you are planning to apply to a wide selection of reach, on-level, and safety schools, some of these colleges will likely require the test scores, so it is better safe than sorry.

Better three hundred 5-star reviews than three.

The SAT and ACT fall season is nearly upon us. Get ready for these upcoming tests and boost your college admissions chances with the help of our Fall classes. Not sure where to start? Set up a 1:1 consultation!

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