Test optional an intriguing alternative

More stories from Sophia Becker


Photo credit to Wikimedia Commons

The College Board regulates the SAT testing that students have the option of taking.

The right of passage that is college application season has begun. High school seniors everywhere are beginning to write their essays, take standardized tests and beg for teacher recommendations. But some students are not taking standardized tests because many schools now have become test-optional. What this means is that the school does not require applicants to submit their test scores with their application. As a senior who has taken more practice ACTs than anyone you may know, it seems stupid to not send in a test score. At the same time, however, I have fully committed to getting “more than a test score” tattooed across my face, so how does one make the decision to apply test-optional?

Test-optional applications let a student who is not a strong test taker show off their skills without having to worry about a test score bringing them down in the process. Schools like George Washington University, High Point University, University of Chicago and the University of Texas Austin all promote themselves as test-optional applications, and get thousands of applicants sending in no test scores whatsoever; I forgot to mention that they are also really great schools. But does this mean that my test score doesn’t mean as much now?

Hopefully not, because, like every other junior or senior, taking those tests took a lot of time that will never be recovered. I worked so hard to get the scores I have that I would want to include that element in my application, but you see, this is where the optional part is key. Because the schools are not test-blind (which is exactly what it sounds like), students have the option of sending in scores. All applicants have to remember that sending their scores to a test-optional school neither increases nor decreases one’s ability to be accepted.

Personally, I see the appeal; it is one less button to press on the Common App, and one less way to potentially mess up, but it makes me less confident in my application – the sense that a piece is missing. Moving forward, I hope that when my children and my children’s children – heck, even this year’s freshman class – apply it will be only to test-optional schools. It is a lot to ask for a student to go through the test taking process – not to mention the cost – until they get a score that is good enough to compete with other applicants. Whether or not one chooses to take standardized tests and submit them or not is different for everyone, but the idea of test-optional schools is attractive and approachable to more applicants around the world.