5 Reasons that TEST OPTIONAL is NOT the safe way to apply

When colleges/universities started announcing that some schools would be TEST OPTIONAL due to the COVID pandemic, the internet was buzzing with parents hopeful about their child’s chances for college acceptance. Students were quick to think that they did not need to take ACT/SAT tests.  I was not so quick to celebrate.

The facts paint a picture that should cause much pause instead. Many students WILL be applying with scores. In addition to competing against those with scores, there are 5 other reasons that scores matter.

Here are my 5 reasons why students still need test scores.

  1. “Optional” parts of an application are often not “optional”
    • I was listening to a podcast from the Director of Admissions at Tulane University and was happy to hear that my take on “optional” was spot on. Things listed as optional in the application process are often NOT optional. (BLOG LINK HERE). Just as it is really optional whether or not my husband acknowledges my birthday, if he wants to have smooth sailing in the house he won’t skip my birthday. When other students are applying with test scores, I am not sure your student applying without a score is wise. In fact, in years prior some schools labeled themselves as test optional just to increase revenue from an influx of applicants.


  1. The NCAA and NAIA are still requiring test scores for academic eligibility for 2024 grads and beyond.
    • We are living in unprecedented times for sure. For 2020 grads, the ACT/SAT requirements for eligibility were waived (GPA and class requirements still stood). I would not anticipate 2021, 2022 & 2023 grads will be given this waiver. If your child plans to continue their sport in college, they will need an ACT or SAT score that gives them academic eligibility.


  1. These test scores are often needed for Merit Scholarships and/or local scholarships.
    • Some schools have dropped their test scores linked to merit money, but there are many that still link the two. I would be cautious about NOT improving your test scores when there is a clear chart that outlines awards. I would not try to gain merit money on GPA alone—not with how grades were computed for many students this past Spring. Local scholarships such a Kiwanis Club and Rotary Club and PTO scholarships can add up. Often, test scores is one factor that is analyzed.


  1. Some majors will still require minimum ACT/SAT scores.
    • If you read the fine print on some test optional announcements, there are majors listed that will still require ALL applicants to send test scores. Examples of these majors include (but are not limited to) nursing and engineering.


  1. Honors programs will still require these scores.
    • Many students like the housing and class registration benefits that joining the Honors Programs give students.