Admissions Officer Advice: Apply to Colleges With Bad Test Scores

Former Admissions Officer Arianna gives advice on how to craft your most competitive application, even without the most competitive test scores.

Date 12/01/2021
Duration 55:45

Webinar Transcription

2021-12-01 Admissions Officer Advice: Apply to Colleges With Bad Test Scores

[00:00:00] Tonight. My name is Arianna Pagan. I am based in Boston, Massachusetts. I have a master’s in education. I’m also a licensed social worker in the state of Massachusetts. I have been in higher ed since 2016. Um, and I’ve worked in admissions at universities, such as Emmanuel, Northeastern university and Babson unified.

Um, so I’m very excited to be here with you today. I’ve been with CollegeAdvisor for quite some time now, and I’m very excited to share my knowledge on how to apply with out a great test score, which I think is a really good topic considering the climate that we’re in. So we’ll get to.

Okay. So I’ll actually take it from there. Ariana’s so that just get us started with our presentation. We’re going to begin with a poll so we can get a sense of what grade are you in? What grade are you in? Let’s see. So Arieanna, as they all are doing the poll. [00:01:00] Tell us a little bit about, you know, your, your major, what made you choose the major?

So I, um, my undergrad is in psych and, you know, I thought I wanted to go to law school and I had heard that law schools wanted something other than political science or writing. Um, and so I was really good at psych. And then when I graduated and started working in education, I realized a masters in education.

You can do a lot with that aside from just teaching. Um, so that’s, that’s kind of, that was kind of my path. It wasn’t direct and straight. Okay. The, the path that I took was learning to pivot, prepared a pivot, which is now advice. I tell a lot of students. Absolutely. Yes. You might have a plan and then something else comes up.

It’s all right. You’re able to pivot and go on the course that’s meant for you. So thank you for sharing that. So just to get a sense of the grade levels of our attendees for this evening, 50% of [00:02:00] folks are in the 11th grade. And then we have about 30% in 12th grade and 9% are in ninth grade. So majority 11th and 12th graders for your presentation.

And this is awesome because it’s usually 11th grade where you’re really starting to focus more seriously on taking test scores, determining which ones you’re going to take, you know, and for you 12th graders, maybe you are looking to retake one of the standardized tests, um, or you just decided I’m done.

And I, my score is what it is. How do I move forward with that? And here you are. Uh, so in terms of the role that standardized tests play in your application, they really are objective indicators of student performance. So it’s not the only indicator of student academic performance, but it’s really a way to try and level the playing field in terms of how we’re evaluating students in the admissions process.[00:03:00]

And it’s, it really becomes important for students who are in certain majors. So if you’re thinking of taking a medical route could be nursing, could be, you know, medical school, dentistry, anything like that, um, could be, you’re looking to take the LSATs, become a lawyer. You’re looking to go into engineering, which can require, um, certain testing certifications.

Um, so standardized testing act eight. Or actually really good indicators of how well. Students will do on those qualifying exams in the future. And the reasons colleges care about that is because the more students who pass those exams, the better the statistics look and the better reputation that gives the college to know what we send, you know, our students score in the top 5% of the M cats when they’re applying to medical schools or, you know, our students score in the top 10% when they take the GREs.

So really those standardized tests. [00:04:00] Important indicators for certain fields and majors. And I think most importantly, your standardized tests are actually really used also for scholarships. Think merit scholarships, depending on your state, there are some state scholarships that you qualify for with certain standardized tests.

So those are really the three big overarching areas of how standardized tests are utilized in your applicant.

And so if your score isn’t as strong as you would have liked, maybe you’ve reached the point where you’re saying, you know, I took it twice. My scores are relatively similar and I don’t know if I want to send them at this point. You know, if I don’t send. What does that look like? How does that impact my application?

And what I always tell students is you need to focus on what is now in your control. And so the biggest thing to focus on [00:05:00] is the academic rigor of your course load. You want to think honors AP IB, even dual enrollment courses at a local community college are going to be strengthened. For your application.

So if you are standardized, test score is in great. It doesn’t meet the competitive level of the university or college. You’re applying to focusing then on the academic rigor of the classes that you’re in and finishing out your academics on a high note is the best thing you can focus. After that you want to look at your personal statement.

Some people we call it a personal statement. Some students call it, um, your essay, the primary essay. Um, your personal statement is going to be a really solid part of your application. And. Uh, you know, here at college adviser really it’s like the center of your application that everything else kind of builds off of.

So if your, your [00:06:00] standardized test scores, aren’t that great, your personal statement, and really developing that narrative of not just answering the prompt to the essay, but what you bring to the table, how you’ve grown, how this college or university is going to benefit you and how you can benefit them.

That personal statement can be just as strong. If you’re not submitting test scores, or if you’re applying to a test optional school, um, and, and any other special admissions requirements are areas that you can focus on, especially supplemental essays. If you’re applying to, you know, Ivy league, top 30 universities, those supplemental essays are very important as our individual interviews.

Um, and I say that because what the standardized tests don’t tell us. Are who you are as a student, right there really just like a blanket validity test, um, or reliability test. It doesn’t really tell us who you are, what you bring to the table, what your dreams are, what your [00:07:00] interests are. A personal interview at a university can really stand out, especially because that person you’re interviewing with may very well be the person you, who is reading your applicant.

Um, so those are some things that you can focus on if your standardized tests are not as strong as you want them to be. Please know, these other areas are just as important for your application and for a competitive edge at the college level.

So you might be saying, okay, well, like I have my personal statement and you know, I haven’t done an interview because they don’t offer them or, you know, I’m already a senior, you know, I I’m in the classes that I’m in. I can’t really bring my GPA up anymore. Especially if you’re applying early action or early decision, you know, what other aspects of your application can you highlight really the biggest connection you need to make in your application to really be [00:08:00] a competitive advantage.

Outside of academics is forming a strong narrative of how your values align with the university values. Now, this takes a little bit of research. This means either, you know, talking to an alumnus, talking to an admissions officer, or even just. Researching online, the university’s pages and mission statements and, you know, quotes from other students to see and read what the university values and what direction the university is looking to go.

And if they’re looking to. You know, increase the number of community service hours over the next 10 years. If they’re looking to increase the number of research opportunities for students, you know, are you somebody who is also passionate about research? What research have you done now? Where do your interests lie?

That connection is just as important because what universities also want to see is [00:09:00] a demonstrated level of. Um, and really you have to be genuine and authentic when you’re talking about this. So it’s not just saying I value, you know, community and I know X university values community. So I’d be a good fit.

That’s not really what I’m talking about. It’s it’s example based it’s experience-based and saying, what have you experienced? How has this impacted. And how is this going to help you grow? How does this contribute to the university? How are you going to translate that at the college level? Um, and ultimately asking the admissions officer, um, as, as a, uh, an admissions officer, the thing that I think is missed by a lot of students is, uh, many universities travel to high schools across the country.

Across the globe and we’ll actually give students an opportunity to meet one-on-one with them. So if there’s a [00:10:00] university that you’re interested in, check with your college counselor, your guidance counselor, to see if they’re visiting their school, because oftentimes if there’s a representative from the institution visiting your school, that’s the person reading your applicant.

Nine out of 10 times. And so a lot of universities will also put on their website, their admission staff, and you can see, you know, Ariana reads applications from Florida and California, and you can actually see and reach out to who is going to be reading your up. It’s not necessarily true at the IB level.

Um, it’s a little bit more vague. They don’t want you reaching out to them personally. Uh, but for just a general, just as a general piece of advice, talking to the admissions officer, or if you can find the contact information of somebody who’s visiting your school from that institution, or the information is on the website, reach out to that person because I always remember.

A student who reached out to me when I’m reading their [00:11:00] application. And we definitely document that. So building again, that personal connection with the university is just as important.

How can you make your essays and extracurriculars the star of your application? Really? That, that center piece, that everything. Builds off of you really want to make sure that these things compliment each other. So if you have been passionate about sports for four years, right. And you know, your essay talks about, you know, uh, your grandmother dying and how that was.

That’s like a complete disconnect. There’s nothing, there’s nothing there, but if you’re an athlete, right. And you’ve participated in sports for the past four years, and you write about a really important, you know, sporting event where you scored a big goal, or maybe you lost and you learned something from that, or maybe [00:12:00] your essay is about wanting to branch out and wanting to start something different and try something new.

And that’s at this university. So you want to make sure that. The extracurriculars you’re writing about are also reflected or highlighted in that essay. In some way, they don’t have to be the focal point, but there needs to be a connection going off of that. Please only focus on the extracurriculars that you have consistently engaged in throughout the four years.

So if you were in band in ninth grade, and then after that you left band, don’t put band on your. And I’m going to tell you why, because we don’t care. What we care about is what you have consistently done, where you have grown because from band, if there’s nothing else there we see, okay, you tried something and then you just stopped.

Um, what we want to hear about, like, it’s pretty obvious to see, oh, they tried [00:13:00] this thing and then they didn’t continue with it. They probably found different interests. Um, that’s just kind of obvious to all admissions office. We want to see, oh, this person has really engaged in cycling. And by the time they come to a university, they’re going to be a licensed cycling instructor.

Like that’s awesome. We want to see that engagement, um, and your essays should be direct and meaningful when you’re, and there’s a few ways to go about this. And I think this is really one of the highlights of. Working at college adviser is for us. It’s not just about getting your essay done. It’s really about strengthening your competitiveness as an applicant through these things.

And so when we talk about your essays being direct and meaningful, what we’re talking about is you’re answering the prompt and there is a direct flow and transition between sentences and between paragraphs and thoughts. So. You know, I think a lot of [00:14:00] students get caught up in writing what they think the admissions office wants to hear, and that comes across very clearly in your writing.

So to be direct and meaningful, it really. Effort. And it takes time to review those drafts and go through each paragraph and say, what am I trying to say here? Is this answering the prompt? You know, am I, am I saying what I mean? Or am I just trying to put a lot of words together to sound professional and cool and you know, poetic that we don’t want that.

And this is just as important because you have maybe five minutes. To grab the admissions officer’s attention in your writing. I cannot tell you how many essays I have not even finished because it doesn’t make sense. The student is trying too hard to communicate something that they clearly are not invested in.

And there’s no point to the [00:15:00] essay like I get halfway through and I’m like, there’s no point here, whereas, and you don’t want that. So you have to be direct and meaningful because you are. In front of an admissions officer with your application is very limited.

okay. So Ariana’s going to give you a quick little pause. We’re going to go into our second poll for this evening. Where are you in the college application process? Where are you? Uh, no, we have, uh, we do have some seniors here, uh, very curious to see where you all are at and, you know, Arieanna, you brought up some really great points about, I mean, I kind of took it as just like authenticity, how important that is, you know, when you’re writing your essays.

And you know, also for me, I’m a CollegeAdvisor and I try to re reiterate that point so much to students around [00:16:00] just be yourself. And that’s going to shine through your essays versus. You know, using words that you probably don’t typically use, or like you said, trying to sound more professional than what you are, and it’s not really coming across in your story.

So that’s a great point. And then also the five minutes mark around, like you’re only taking about five minutes to read the application. Yeah, it’s, it’s, it’s a very quick turnaround and all admissions officers read, you know, close to a hundred applications a day. So, you know, you really gotta be, if it’s not, it doesn’t have to be catchy.

It doesn’t have to be, you know, perfect. But it just has to flow and it has to be direct. Um, That is very insightful information. Um, so taking it back to our poll, uh, we have, uh, 11% haven’t started, which makes sense, given the audience, uh, 50% are doing their research. So that’s, that’s really great. And this is awesome.

Even being as webinars as a part of your research [00:17:00] process, uh, 17% are working on their essays. 11% are getting your application material together in the 11%. Are almost done. So congratulations to the students who are almost done completing their college applications. I’ll turn it back over to you, Ariana.

That is awesome. And to those of you who are in the process of researching schools, Keep researching, there are close to 4,000 universities in the United States alone. So, you know, I think doing the research is the hardest part. So, you know, keep going and don’t stop until you find some places that you’re really passionate about and you can really see yourself at, for the next four years.

Those of you putting your application materials together. Congrats, stay disciplined in doing that. And to those of you who are almost done, I promise it gets better. It really does. And you will be okay. I promise. All right. So what’s interesting is that when the [00:18:00] pandemic hit in March of 2020, we were coming towards the end of the admissions cycle.

So March is typically a time when, um, most students have gone there. Decision letters, uh, for on the admission side, you know, we’re running, you know, accepted students days and, but we’ve pretty much finished our recruitment cycle. Maybe some students are applying last minute. Um, so when the pandemic hit, it really gave us a lot of time to reevaluate for the upcoming cycle.

How are we going to be sympathetic to a situation that has impacted the entire world? Um, and especially. A situation that has impacted marginalized communities and so much like the rapid closure of face-to-face instruction during the peak of the pandemic. Um, it actually just became impossible for students to take standardized testing.

You know, we couldn’t be in person and your SATs, your actsh have to be done in person. There has to be a moderator there. [00:19:00] Um, and so it disrupted thousands of students testing plans. And so universities across. The board decided that they were going to be test optional. And that includes universities like Harvard and MIT.

And so when you see big names like that, taking such a dramatic shift in their admissions plans, um, it, it really shifted everything. And so. A lot of schools have gone test optional now, uh, close to 60% of schools in the United States. According to inside higher ed have gone test optional, which is huge because before that it was about 48% around like 40 50%.

Um, but it has also called into question the reliability of standardized testing in admission. So the SATs and actsh right there, they’re really tests of reliability. Like they measure what they say. But they’re not necessarily valid measurements, um, [00:20:00] specifically when it comes to the admission cycle. So reliable, meaning, you know, you test the same thing over and over again, you know, you get similar results, validity, meaning does it really test your intelligence?

No. Um, at least in my opinion. And so for students who have decided. To not send their test scores, you know, specifically to universities who have gone test optional for the first time. Um, it’s really changed the way that applications are being read. And it’s also changed the competitiveness of the applicant pool, which I’ll talk about more.

So there are, um, new options for. There are new options with test optional schools after COVID. So the question has become, you know, for schools who weren’t test-optional before, how has that impacted the admissions office? So it really creates this holistic admissions practice. [00:21:00] So at the IB level, Uh, students who apply with their test scores tend to be in like the top one, 2% of, you know, their standardized testing pool.

Um, and those are generally solid indicators of a student’s predicted academic success at the college level. However, if your score is low, uh, and maybe you don’t plan on taking any standardized tests. It doesn’t mean that you’re less competitive of an applicant because what’s happened is access to standardized testing has also been an issue for years.

Um, some people can have, have the means to pay for tutoring can afford classes. The books, uh, other populations can not afford those same resources and even taking the standardized exams is a struggle. And so what’s happened is that universities that are, have newly become tested. The applicant [00:22:00] pool has become more competitive because those reliable measures are no longer in place.

So then it becomes a holistic admissions practice. Meaning we have to look at everything else in the student’s application. And as a whole decide whether this student fits. And the thing to notice that a lot of universities say that they, they go by holistic admissions practices and they really don’t.

And now they’ve with COVID, they’ve been forced to take on that holistic admissions process. So that means saying, okay, there aren’t any scores. Um, this student has consistently taking APS honors courses. Um, you know, they’ve got solid extracurriculars. They’ve done an interview, which is great. I remember talking to them and they were passionate about XYZ and, you know, reading this application.

I really get a sense for who the student is. And I really think they would be a good fit or I [00:23:00] think they wouldn’t be a good fit. Um, and so, but because of that, because this, this competitive, because the applicant pool has become more competitive, that personal narrative, meaning your personal statement, your academic rigor, your extracurricular activities are more important.

There’s more. Focus on those aspects instead of your standardized tests. So if you are somebody who is not looking to submit standardized tests, you’re applying to test optional schools, it doesn’t make you less competitive. It just means that what you are submitting needs to be stronger in order for you to stand out.

And I mean, this is a question I get on the daily. Um, especially from parents, our school is going to stay test optional, truthfully, nobody knows for sure. Um, as I mentioned prior to COVID [00:24:00] between 40 to 50% of schools in the United States were already test optional. So they were trending that way as it was.

Um, do I predict the IVs will go back to require. The standardized testing. Yes, I do. Um, but ranked universities. So, you know, that not only includes the IVs, but places like, you know, Northeastern Boston university, Northwestern university of Miami, um, after the 2021 to 2022 admissions cycle, which is what we’re in right now, there is a possibility that ranked universities will go back to requiring them.

And that is because. To be ranked. You have to have that data on standardized testing. Um, so that’s been waived for the 20, 20 to 2021 cycle and the rankings have been waived for the 2021 to 2022 admissions cycle. So after this [00:25:00] cycle, it’s it. Who knows, honestly, that’s all the information we have right now.

What are the benefits of submitting your, your test scores? It can add a competitive edge to your application. You know, if you know, there’s 20 applicants, right. And you know, there are only, you know, 15 spots and, you know, eight, 15, It, or, you know, 16, 17 out of 20 students don’t submit test scores because their test optional, but the ones who do fit into the university’s average or are above average, that does give you a competitive edge, especially if those other students have similar GPA’s to yours.

Um, but also having that good test score accompanied with a strong personal narrative statement. Extracurriculars [00:26:00] gives you that competitive edge. So it does make you more competitive of an applicant. Um, and if you’re somebody who I see this a lot, students who maybe didn’t have the opportunity to take honors or AP or IB courses, you know, they’ve just been in the standard college curriculum, um, or the prep curriculum.

And they. The SATs, the actsh and they do very well that good test score can really counteract a low GPA, um, and really work towards your benefit. And again, it is, it can be indicative of how well you’ll do in certain majors. Um, specifically for nursing majors, depending on your. Um, your sat and act scores can be really good indicators of how you’ll do on your, um, RN certifications later on.

So, you know, the higher those scores are universities want students with those higher scores. Um, and again, merit based scholarships, every student asks about scholarships. [00:27:00] Um, having a good test score can really increase your chances of getting a solid merit based scholarship.

And then on the flip side, the benefits to not submitting your test scores is that it gives you an opportunity to have more time to dedicate to other areas, you know, preparing to take standardized testing does require a lot of time. It’s a time commitment to study. Maybe you’re taking a course. Maybe you’re studying with friends.

Maybe your school is offering a practice exam. Maybe you’re taking practice exams online. You know, that’s a lot of time. And if you. Are deciding you’re not going to take standardized testing or that you’re not submitting scores. You’re not going to take them again. Whatever the reason might be that frees up more time to focus on your academics and to focus on your exams, whether you’re a junior, a senior finishing the year on a strong note is so important.

I don’t think students realize that prior to [00:28:00] enrolling at a university. Um, so you put in the deposit in may, typically, and then you’re enrolled in September. Once you start prior to starting at a university, we get your final college transcript. So we will see whether your GPA and your grades have gone down.

We will see whether you finished on a high note. And I have seen situations where. Um, have not submitted test scores. They do get some sort of scholarship. They finished the year and their GPA has gone down and they no longer qualify for that scholarship. Um, so definitely having more time to dedicate to your academics is a benefit of not submitting scores or even having to take the exams.

Um, and it also gives you more time to dedicate to other parts of your application such as the. Interview preparation, preparation researching. Um, and in, in my opinion, I think if you’re somebody who doesn’t have a great test score and you don’t fall into the average or above average [00:29:00] score for the university, you’re interested in, uh, not submitting your scores actually gives a more accurate representation of your preparedness for college.

Because before standardized testing existed, what was the number one indicator? Of college preparedness your high school curriculum, your grades, your transcripts. So, you know, not submitting your scores really gives, uh, colleges and universities an opportunity to look and see over the past three and a half, four years.

How have you grown? How have you challenged yourself in your high school’s curriculum?

I get this question a lot. How does an admissions officer analyze test scores as part of the student’s overall profile? This is a really hard concept for students and families to grasp. If you, [00:30:00] it, first of all, it depends on the university and the program you’re applying. To, um, at IVs, your standardized test scores are pretty much expected to be above whatever the university average is.

If you’re not above the university average, um, oftentimes you can end up being put in the general applicant pool. You can be pushed to the waitlist. Um, and that’s just given how competitive college admissions has become. Um, for top 50 ranked universities, they will put more weight on your standardized.

Your GPA and your extracurriculars. Those are the factors they take into consideration more. For traditional liberal arts and sciences colleges that might not be ranked, um, or fall under the top 50. Um, they’ll focus on those aspects of your application, but they also will focus on your letters of reference, um, your demonstrated interest in the university.

And that’s really where you see more of a holistic admissions process pre COVID and you’ll see [00:31:00] that post COVID. Um, so if you are somebody who has a solid, standardized test score and you want to submit them, it’s not just based off of that score. If you have a good score, but your application is trashed.

That just makes that doesn’t make you a competitive applicant. You know, if you’re a statement, personal statement, Grammatical errors. If there’s no point your extracurriculars are all over the place, your letters of reference are pretty standard. Um, there’s nothing unique or special there, you’re not a competitive applicant, even if you have great scores.

Um, but if you have an average score and you are, you know, you’ve, you’re in national honor society, you’ve been consistently taking honors AP courses, maybe dual enrollment, you know, great letters of rec. Your extracurriculars really showcase where your strengths and interests lie, that makes you a competitive applicant even without test scores.

So it’s all about submitting [00:32:00] the application that gives you a, the biggest competitive edge and B highlights, who you are and what you bring to the table. The most, that is what makes you the best, most competitive applicant with, or without scores.

In my experience. I am somebody who truly, and this is something that is like very highly debated in higher education. Um, I truly believe that a student’s transcript and high school curriculum is the best indicator. Of academic success. Um, you know, if you have not taken any AP or IB courses, but you’ve gotten all A’s in high school, that’s amazing.

That’s great. You’ve challenged yourself. Um, maybe you’ve taken APS and IVs and gotten BS and CS. That’s also great because you’ve also challenged yourself. [00:33:00] Um, and you know, before standardized testing your academic performance was the standard. Um, so for me, you know, whether students. Their test scores are not the first thing I look at is their transcript, um, to see that growth academically over three and a half, four years, but there are other people who will say that, you know, there are other admissions officers who will say that the personal statement is the most important aspect of the essay or your demonstrated interest, how involved you’ve been throughout the admissions process visit.

Doing interviews, um, open houses, information sessions, all of those things are important, so that it’s very highly debated, but just in my years of experience, having worked at a few top 30 universities, I still think that the academic rigor is the most important.

Uh, and the last piece of advice I would give to students. [00:34:00] Who want to submit a great application and don’t have a good score, reach out to the admissions office and schedule an interview. And if you can’t schedule an interview, try to talk to an admissions officer, because even if you’re talking to an admissions officer and you’re unsure of whether or not they’ll be reading your application, ask and say, um, who reads applications for.

Uh, this region who reads applications for Massachusetts, for Florida, sometimes they’ll tell you, um, and sometimes they’ll give you a few names, so, but always reach out to the admissions office. Um, I think some students are afraid to do that, but w w that’s our job, like we’re there to talk to you and answer these questions for you, and definitely spend more time focused on what is within your control, your extracurriculars, your grades, your involvement.

And don’t overthink it, please. Don’t over. Think it, uh, just submit the application that gives you the strongest [00:35:00] chance of admission, and that really highlights that personal narrative and your competitive edge. Um, that will always be the best application that you can submit with or without test scores.


Okay, well, so thank you so much. Eriana um, that now concludes the presentation part of the webinar. I hope you all found the information very helpful. I definitely not a lot of great information from your presentation. And remember that you can download the slides from the link in the handouts tab. Now, moving on to the live Q and a.

I’ll read through the questions you submitted in the Q and a tab, paste them into the public chat so you can see and then read them out loud before our panelists, give you an answer as a heads up. If your Q and a tab, isn’t letting you submit questions. Just double check that you joined the webinar through the custom link in the email and not [00:36:00] from the webinar landing page.

Uh, Please begin to submit your questions. Our first question that we have, um, it asks, is it okay to email admission officers to ask what’s a highlight in your application? So it is okay to email an admissions officer. Uh, I would not ask them what to highlight in your application because they’re going to give you a very generic answer.

And that generic answer is going to sound something like we take a holistic review of your application in all parts are considered equally. Um, that’s not always the case and that’s always why we advise students to come and join CollegeAdvisor because, you know, we do have that inside information. Um, but if you want to ask, you know, who reads for this territory who reads for my [00:37:00] high school?

Um, and then reach out to that person and ask if they will do interviews, or if you can schedule an interview with the person who will be reading your application, um, that I think you’ll have more success with than just asking what should I highlight in my application? That’s what we do. That’s why you would join CollegeAdvisor.

We will tell you what to highlight in your application. Great point, great point. Um, so I know you talked about. You know, test optional. Um, and I know a good number of schools have gone test option are still tests, test optional. And I should, I know you shared some really great data regarding the percentage.

Um, how do you advise a student on whether or not to still input their test score? Being that the application is still asking, would you like to submit your test score? So I know oftentimes students kind of get kind of confused, like, well, the college is asking me to submit it, but isn’t a school test option.

Um, what’s your recommendations on how to [00:38:00] approach that? Uh, always, you know, if you are, I know the applications will say, are you submitting test scores? It’s okay to say no, I think there is this misconception that. It’s better to submit a bad score than to not submit scores at all. And that could not be further from the truth.

Um, I have disqualified and denied students who were pretty good applicants solely because they have submitted bad test scores, um, because they’re just not competitive. And so I think it’s really important to understand that if the school is test optional and your scores are not good. Do not submit the scores because you want to submit the application that gives you the strongest chance of admission.

So if the university is asking, you know, would you like to submit test scores? You can say no, because I want to submit the application because [00:39:00] without test scores, my application shows I am a more competitive candidate period. Um, from one of our pre panel kind of questions that was asked is, um, like what is, uh, what’s, uh, what’s considered a good test score.

What’s a bad test score. Yeah. That’s a great question. Uh, and really you have to research the university. Um, there isn’t like one blanket, I can’t say like, you know, 1200 is a bad score or a good score. It’s really just, you have to look at the university like. We have this data on their website and you can see, it will say, you know, under the admissions website, page average sat score is this.

And if your score is above average, then you’re good. If it’s average, then you’re good. If it’s below average, do not submit them. Um, you know, when you get into, into IVs, your score should be near perfect. You know, maybe [00:40:00] within, you know, the sat, maybe within 10 points, um, and on the act within one or two. Um, but outside of that really do students should do the research on the universities.

They’re interested in to see what the average sat scores are to best gauge, uh, their competitiveness, uh, with their. Okay, great information. So that includes doing your research so that you’re able to kind of know what the average test scores are, where the admitted students, um, how many times should a student take the sat or the act average is two.

I would say, um, the average times average number of times, students. Both sat and the act is twice. There are students who will take the sat and then also take the act once. Um, and then from there, decide, you know, well, I did better on the act, so I’m going to take that one again. [00:41:00] That’s an option, um, that does get expensive.

And so for students and families who. May not want to spend all that money, um, who, you know, could reallocate that money to applications. Um, what I always advise is, you know, if you only plan on taking an exam, Do a lot of preparation for that exam take as many practice exams as you can online, ask your guidance counselors.

If there are any resources they know of to take free practice exams, um, to best maximize your chance of success. If you’re only going to take it once, but average students take, take the exam twice.

Um, you mentioned earlier in regards to. You know, traditional liberal arts and science colleges typically focused on GPA demonstrated interest that is, are referenced extracurricular, standardized tests. Can you share with our participants, like what’s, what’s the difference between a liberal arts college and a science college?

Yeah, [00:42:00] absolutely. Um, so they’re, they’re really all three I’m a liberal arts and sciences college is going to be a university that has a little bit of everything they have. Psychology. They have business, they have, uh, biology and they have, um, you know, forensic science, liberal arts and sciences, and then just science.

Universities are going to be, um, places that offer more stem, focused majors. Um, those are really gonna be your science universities like MIT. Um, whereas. You know, with a liberal arts and science college, you’re going to find more nuanced majors, you know, so maybe they offer psychology, but within psychology they have majors like, you know, child counseling and, um, you know, legal counseling.

And so majors like that are more nuanced and more specific for students who have very niche interests, um, [00:43:00] and liberal arts colleges tend to take the most holistic. Review of your application. They look at everything. Um, science-based colleges are going to focus more on your SATs and your GPA, um, and you know, your high school curriculum.

Uh, so that’s really the difference between a liberal arts and sciences and then a sciences university. Thank you. Um, you mentioned in your presentation that, you know, Standardized tests are not required or, you know, most universities are going to test optional right now that, you know, colleges have to now use a holistic admissions, you know, approach or practices.

Can you explain to our audience again, like what do you mean by holistic admission practices? Absolutely. So a holistic admissions process means that no one part of your application is given more weight than another. And so, you know, we look at your. [00:44:00] GPA. And then we look at your high school transcripts.

We look to see what your courses have looked like over the course of three and a half, four years to gauge, okay, this student has really challenged themselves or the student, you know, has done very well in certain areas. Um, it’s very common that students who are interested in math and science tend to have higher math and science grades.

And then, you know, they do fairly well or very well in more of the English writing history areas. And so we gauge, you know, academic interest and academic success. There, we move on to, you know, your personal statement, your essay to really better understand who you are as an applicant. What do you bring to the table?

Who is this person who is doing well academically? Um, and what do they want for their future? And so from there, we really start to build this narrative and understand, oh, this. Um, is really passionate about Marine science. They really love, you know, they’re very [00:45:00] involved in, you know, environmental impact, um, within their community.

They’ve, you know, started this, you know, ocean cleanup in their local community. Um, and you know, they even started this club at their college. Like, we start to understand how your academic. And your personal narrative come together to show, okay. Not only is the student academically prepared, but we think they would be a good fit because they could contribute to our community.

They can continue on. And you know, they’re interested in Marine biology as a major, and I totally got that from their application. And so from there, it’s deciding as a whole, is this a student who not only can contribute to our community, but who can handle the academic. Um, and that is what the holistic admissions process is.

And so when, when students worry about, well, you know, even though it’s test optional, if I don’t send my scores, then they know I’m not competitive and they know I didn’t do well. [00:46:00] Um, that’s not really the case for. From my experience. If a student is not submitting test scores, it’s because they decided my application is more competitive without them.

And that is the best chance of admission that you can give yourself. Really a great explanation. So we’re going to give you a short little break, Ariana, and I’m going to move over to sharing a little bit about CollegeAdvisor, as you all heard, Arieanna share some highlights and some benefits to CollegeAdvisor.

So would you like to work one-on-one with an advisor from our team of over 225 advisors in admission officers, such as areas. Sign up for a free consultation with us, by going to and clicking the green chat button in the bottom, right of the screen from there, just write in [00:47:00] consultation and a live team member will give back to you to help coordinate your free consultation with us.

Um, and just like Ariana’s shared, like CollegeAdvisor can support you with really figuring out what is it that.

Um, and you all will definitely receive some rate. It’s a really great service in store that you’re submitting quality applications. Um, so from here I will turn it back over to, well, we’ll go back into our Q and a, and we actually have a question that is. Placed in our question and answer tab. So this question reads and read the indirectly, but does it look weird if a straight a student college prep level does not submit sat scores?

So for example, and this is, this is for the student who, you know, there’s, there’s just not a good test test taker. Um, I think that was myself as well. I got [00:48:00] very nervous, you know, when it came to taking those tests. Um, so what’s your recommendation. It does not look weird. If a straight a student does not submit sat, scores, it doesn’t look weird at all.

And again, I think there’s a narrative that in the admissions office, we get an application that doesn’t have test scores and we’re going, oh, you don’t have test scores. Oh, you’re not. You clearly didn’t do well. Or like, we aren’t like, honestly, we just don’t have time to think that way. We like, again, you have.

Five seven minutes. Um, and we have quotas that we also need to meet. So if you know, w what we’re looking for is very specific. When we get applications that don’t have test scores, we don’t have time to say, oh, somebody didn’t do very well. Really what it is is we’re going through and saying, okay, what is in this application?

No test scores. Okay. GPA, uh, academic rigor, personal statement, great letters of recommendation. [00:49:00] Like we are moving very quickly to build this narrative. And that’s a skill that a lot of us have had to build over the years. So it doesn’t look weird at all. If anything, if your student has not submitted scores, or if you, as a student are not submitting scores, we’re not thinking you’re not competitive.

We’re not thinking that it’s weird. We just know, okay, this is the best application that you submitted. This is what we’re going to read. Nice. Um, how does one find out if a, if a college is test optional, where, where should I get. That’s a great question. Usually on the university admissions page, it will have some information about test optional, um, and a lot of universities actually.

Um, we’ll put their average test score on the admissions website. Um, you want to make sure you’re an undergraduate admissions, not graduate admissions, um, to see, you know, what the average test score is. And then usually there’s some wording that will [00:50:00] say, you know, the 20, 21 to 2022 academic cycle, we will be test-optional.

Um, so really looking on your, the university that you’re interested in and their, their webpage to see, um, whether they’re test-optional. Okay, that goes into the research, doing your research. Uh, this question comes from our live Q and a so far. My test scores are below average and my first choice school is one that requires scores.

What do you recommend? Um, I do have another chance to test again before the application is submitted and I’m about a 3.9 student who’s taken AP classes. Yeah, that’s a great question. So I would highly recommend prior to taking the exam again, um, doing some prep work and really analyzing your score. So looking to see what you did well in what aspect of this test you did well in and [00:51:00] what aspect could you have done better in?

Um, it’s pretty common that students will come and say, you know, well, I did really great in math or English. Um, and you know, but I didn’t do really well in another area or in math or English. And so that then becomes the focus of your test prep. Um, so examining your scores to see what areas, you know, you could put more effort into and then studying that, um, and giving yourself time.

I typically tell students, you want to wait anywhere from, you know, eight to 12 weeks to really be able to. You know, take some time, first of all, to digest having taken them because they are stressful. Um, and then taking them again. So, you know, having a 3.92 GPA in AP classes is awesome. Um, and you know, it definitely makes you a competitive applicant, but if everybody else in the applicant pool also has a 3.92 GPA and AP classes, [00:52:00] you’re kind of just asking.

So, you know, retaking the exams would be your best bet. Um, worst case scenario, you don’t do great. Then you want to focus on the rest. You want to focus on that personal statement, those extracurriculars, and then having an honest conversation with the admissions office to see, you know, I’m not submitting my test scores or I don’t have a low score.

You know, should I even bother to apply sometimes they’ll tell you no, sometimes they’ll tell you, you know, go ahead and apply. You know, we take a holistic overview. Um, so those would, those would be your best options, I would say. Nice. Thank you for answering that and thank you to, um, our attending who asked that question?

Um, how should, how soon should a student begin preparing for the sat or the AC. That’s a great question. I always have believed that sophomore year is a great time to prepare for the SATs. Um, you don’t necessarily [00:53:00] have to do, um, you know, like a, a course on it your sophomore year, but definitely, you know, your PSA T’s are going to be solid indicators.

Um, and once you’ve gotten your PSA Ts, you know, start looking for some free practice exams online. Um, looking to see what free resources are available to start preparing. Um, if you can get your hands on, you know, an older version know. Uh, 20 19 20 20 version of a test prep book, um, because those tend to be less expensive just to practice and get an understanding of how questions are worded, what the exam will look like.

Um, and then in your junior year taking a test prep course, if you can getting a tutor, if you can, if you can’t it’s okay. Um, but sophomore year really gives you a lot of time to prepare. So that way, when you take the exam, you understand the. Um, and you don’t get tripped up on any questions. [00:54:00] Great. Thank you for answering that.

Um, so with that Brianna, before we end the presentation, just wanted to ask if you could share just final word, um, for my attendees as relates to the topic that you’ve been discussing this evening. Absolutely. Um, my, my last piece of advice, if you take anything away, To submit the application that gives you the best competitive edge and do not submit test scores that are below the average, they will not help you at all.

Um, and, and just focus on what is within your control. Um, you know, we are in very unprecedented times still, so, you know, focused on what’s in your control. Um, and you know, what, what will happen will work out in your. Absolutely really great final words. So with that, everyone that is [00:55:00] going to conclude our webinar for this evening.

Thank you. Arieanna so much for sharing all the great pieces of information and knowledge. It is. It’s so clear that you’re an expert. In this field. Um, so like I said, I picked up a lot of great information. I was taking notes on the side, like yes, yes, yes. Um, so definitely appreciate your time and thank you part two.

Um, thank you to everyone who was able to come out this evening and just to remind you, you all will receive a recording. So maybe you kind of came in midway, you will receive an email, um, immediately after with the recording. This presentation. Um, so with that, thank you all that concludes our webinar for this evening.

Have a great night.