Test Optional: To Submit or Not Submit

Are standardized test scores still a critical component of your college application? Join our informative webinar, “Test Optional: To Submit or Not Submit,” presented by admissions expert Lydia Hollon. Discover the ins and outs of test-optional policies and make informed decisions that will shape your college journey.

In this webinar, you will gain valuable insights into the following key areas:

  • Understanding Test-Optional Policies:
  • Learn what test-optional really means and how it impacts the application process.
  • Explore the reasons behind the rise of test-optional admissions.
  • Pros and Cons of Submitting Scores:
  • Understand the advantages of submitting test scores.
  • Explore the potential benefits of choosing not to submit scores.
  • How to Decide: Submit or Not?
  • Receive expert guidance on determining whether submitting test scores is right for you.
  • Learn how to assess your application holistically to make the best decision.
  • Preparing Your Application:
  • Discover alternative ways to strengthen your application in the absence of test scores.
  • Get tips on crafting an impressive personal statement and securing strong recommendation letters.
  • Q&A Session:
  • Engage with our expert in a live Q&A session.
  • Get answers to your specific questions and concerns about test-optional admissions.

Don’t miss out on this opportunity to navigate the evolving college admissions process successfully!

Date 11/09/2023
Duration 49:44

Webinar Transcription

2023-11-09 – Test Optional: To Submit or Not Submit

Lonnie: Hello, everyone. Welcome to CollegeAdvisors webinar, “Test Optional: to Submit or Not to Submit.” To orient everyone with the webinar timing. We’re first going to begin with the presentation and then we’ll have opportunity to answer your questions in a live Q&A if you’re interested in downloading the slides, you can download them through our handouts tab.

And if you would like to already start submitting your questions, you can go ahead and start placing those questions and the Q&A tab. If you have any technical support that you may need, feel free to send me a private message. And with that, we will go ahead and introduce our panelists.

Lydia: Okay. Hi, everyone.

My name is Lydia Hollon. I’m really excited to see all of you. I am an alum of New York University. I went to NYU for For a bachelor’s in political science, as well as a master’s in public administration. And then I also have my master’s in teaching from really university. So I’m really excited to be able to talk to you all today.

I have experience in the admissions and advising offices at NYU as well. So I’m more than happy to answer any questions that you all have tonight about, um, applying to colleges, about test optional. Um, I no longer work at NYU now. I’m actually have experience as a English teacher and education consultant.

But, um, I’m still really excited to talk to you, um, as someone who loves working with high school students as a high school teacher.

Lonnie: Nice, nice, awesome educator. Um, so with that, we will go ahead and, Do our first poll for our webinar. So we would like to know what grade you are in. It allows us the opportunity to make sure that we’re speaking directly to our audience that is with us.

So I will give everyone just a few seconds to share your response.

And then as the responses are coming in, Lydia, I’m curious, um, undergrad and grad school, what made you decide to go to NYU for, you know, your graduate degree?

Lydia: The main reason, honestly, is, um, NYU had a joint B. A. and M. A. program, so it just made sense. Um, and I got, I was, I had a full ride to NYU, um, for my bachelor’s degree, so it was really convenient because it was just going to be one extra year, so I was able to finish half of my Master’s already underneath my full tuition scholarship from undergrad.

So it made my master’s in public administration a lot, a lot cheaper. Um, and thankfully I was also able to get my master’s in teaching, uh, paid for as, uh, through Teach for America. So I’m very fortunate to have had most of my education paid for.

Lonnie: Yes.

Okay. There it goes. Sorry. Having some technical issues. That’s really great. Definitely really fortunate, um, to be able to have, you know, your tuition covered for graduate school. We know how the rise in cost of that can be. So congratulations to you and thanks for providing that insight. Um, so as it relates to our poll, we have, um, Let’s see, 40 percent of our audience are in the 11th grade.

Followed by that, we have 30 percent in the 10th grade, 20%, um, 30 percent 12th grade, 20 percent 10th grade, and then we have just a few other, um, so representation from 10th through 12th grade for the most for our audience. Okay.

Lydia: Well, I teach 10th and 11th grade. So nice, nice students in those classes.

Lonnie: Great. So I’ll turn it over to you to share a little bit about, you know, how different schools are approaching standardized testing.

Lydia: Yes. So as I’m sure many of you know, um, especially as high school students who have gone through COVID 19 yourself while in school, um, in high school or middle school, um, COVID 19 has completely reshaped education, but especially the way that colleges and universities view it.

So prior to the pandemic, there was a much bigger emphasis on standardized testing, as you can imagine, because there was this expectation that everyone would have the ability to go in person, go take the ACT, go take the SAT. But obviously during the pandemic, especially during quarantine, there were thousands of students who were not able to take standardized testing.

So, Um, before they applied to colleges. And so, because of COVID 19, colleges and universities really had to rethink how they were going to evaluate students. without using standardized testing as a metric, because with thousands of students not being able to, not being able to take the test, um, it just really made it unfair.

So because of that, more than 80 percent of four year colleges did not require standardized tests for fall 2023 admissions. So that is not people who are applying right now in fall 2023, but students who are applying to start college in fall 2023. So that is a sizable, sizable amount. Um, and again, I think that just really reflects how much COVID 19 reshaped the way colleges view standardized testing and how they’re really pushing to try and figure out different ways to evaluate students without requiring the ACT or SAT specifically.

So there are multiple approaches to these different ideas about how we approach standardized testing besides just requiring an ACT or SAT score. The three categories are test free, test optional and then test flexible. So first we’re going to do test free versus test optional. Um, so test free, I think is the one that is most obvious or sounds most like what it is, and that is when testing is something that is.

Not considering the student’s application no matter what. And what that basically means is you could go sit down and take the SAT, take the ACT, and try to send those scores to that university using their, you know, school code, and it still would not be considered in your application no matter what. So even if it is somehow sent to them, they will not consider it in admissions.

to their undergraduate program. Admissions will not see your test score, so they are test blind. You may have heard that, that phrase before, and that’s what it means. It’s something that they do not see it, they do not consider it. So it’s not like, oh, it gets sent to the school, but they just try not to consider it.

It is literally something that is not a part of your application packet whatsoever. It Is not considered in any amount. Um, this policy is not as common as test optional. There are less than a hundred schools that still offer this, um, for this application cycle. So even though it is something that may be attractive for someone who, especially someone who is not as strong, um, in testing or standardized testing, it is not as popular of an option as it was originally.

particularly during the, the heat of the COVID 19 pandemic, but there’s still, um, a number of schools that offer it. So if that’s something that is important to you, um, There’s still a number of schools that you can find who have that policy. Um, test scores outside of the ACT or SAT may still be used for non admission decisions like class placement.

So that primarily refers to, for example, um, an AP test or an IB test that you may take. Um, so those are technically standardized tests, but they are standardized tests that basically determine, for example, whether you start out in Calculus 1 or Calculus 2, for example. So it’s not considered in your admissions, but let’s say that you are accepted to a certain school, then those AP scores or IB scores that you submit, for example, maybe even an SAT subject test specifically, those things may be considered in terms of determining what classes you have to take or what classes you can get out of, or if you can skip a certain level of, say, a language or something like that.

Now, test optional is a bit different in the sense that test scores are not required, but if you choose to submit it, um, it will be considered. So the big difference here is that with test free, No one is allowed to send any scores in no one at all. So you could have a 36 on the ACT, um, you could have a 1600 on the SAT.

It is still not gonna be considered, you’re still not gonna be able to send that impressive score. In, in contrast, a test optional score, um, will consider your test score if you so choose to submit it. So the thing that is important to consider with a test optional score, which is they must. Much more common policy that many more schools tend to offer is that a test optional school Um may still consider the fact that you maybe chose not to Well, let me correct myself a a test optional school is not supposed to judge you or make assumptions if you choose not to submit a test score to their university.

However, the fact that some students are able to submit test scores and some students are not, um, students who choose to submit test scores to a test optional school are able to provide just a little bit more context about what their academic situation is, and that can sometimes be an advantage. So an admissions officer cannot assume that just because you didn’t send a test score in that that means that you bombed it, right?

That you got like a 16 on the ACT or something like that. But the fact that you choose not to submit that test score, sometimes it can leave some questions about what your academic performance is, whether you chose not to send those scores because you just didn’t take studies. a standardized test at all, or whether you chose not to submit it because maybe it was not competitive for the school that you’re applying to.

So I always like to think of test scores as just an additional, like, piece of the puzzle that helps to paint a clearer picture of who you are as an applicant, especially in terms of academic strength. But that doesn’t mean that test scores are required in order for you to assert that that is a strength for you.

And then the last, um, the last option is test flexible. So this one requires some sort of standardized test score, but it is not necessarily an ACT score, SAT score that you have to submit the way that in the past before COVID 19, that was the policy that most colleges had, right? You had to send in an ACT or SAT score, um, even if you did send in other, other other test scores as well.

Um, so test flexible is when some sort of test score is required, but it does not have to be the ACT or SAT. So that could be an AP exam or an IB exam. SAT subject test, if you happen to have taken it before 2021. Um, so what you guys are class of 2024. So I imagine only if you are a senior, is there any possibility probably that you’ve taken one of those, but if you did happen to take one and you did well on it, and that would be something that you could submit.

Um, a lot of the time with test flexible options, you usually may have to send in more than just one. Um, so maybe it’s something along the lines of maybe like two, at least two or three AP or IB exam scores or something like that. It usually isn’t just allowing you to submit just one. But again, being able to submit, um, an AP exam may be more favorable for you than an ACT score.

If let’s say you are really good at like humanities classes, right? Maybe you did really well in AP U.S. history. You did really well in AP world history. You did really well, um, in AP, um, government, right? U.S. government. because you’re really strong in the humanities, but maybe you’re not that great when it comes to science or math, so you didn’t do too hot on the ACT, then TestFlexible will be optional, will be great for you, because you may have fives on all those AP exams, but only have, let’s say, a 26 on the ACT.

So you’re able to show strength, um, in standardized testing in another way. I will say though, with TestFlexible, if it is requiring you to submit multiple AP exams or IB exams, it may go a little bit farther if you’re able to show strong test scores from different disciplines, not just strength in one discipline.

Or if you are going to submit, uh, strong test scores in just one discipline, like the example that I gave, all strong scores in the humanities, it would probably be important that you are also applying, um, for a humanities or social sciences kind of major. So how have test free and test optional policies changed the higher ed’s admission landscape?

So there is really a much bigger emphasis on holistic evaluation, and the main reason that I say that is because, um, like I said, test scores, especially ACT and SAT scores, um, they do provide like a piece of the puzzle in terms of painting a picture of the kind of student that you are, but in the past, especially before COVID 19.

There was sometimes a very heavy or some people would say over emphasis on test scores, which meant that some students who otherwise are really great students would not completely be considered just because they did not perform well on standardized testing. So with test scores being removed from the calculation, or students having the option to remove test scores from the calculation, it really requires admissions officers to consider the whole student and everything that they bring to the table, rather than focusing too much on GPA and standardized test scores, which for so long was kind of what a lot of people thought was important.

Assume that admissions officers were doing and that almost there was like a cutoff. Um, that’s not the reality of how it was before COVID 19. And it’s not the reality of what happens now. Um, but it did play a very big role. Test scores did, um, have a heavy weight in determining, um, a student’s likelihood of admission.

So being able to remove that allows us to focus a lot more on other aspects of admissions. aspects of a student’s competitiveness, um, removing test scores. So especially thinking about this when it comes to the test optional policies where you’re choosing whether or not you’re going to submit a test score at all.

Um, just be mindful that that does mean more critique of the types of courses that you take, more critique of your GPA. Um, Um, your transcript and greater importance on your extracurriculars in your letters of recommendation. And that really just boils down to the fact that, again, providing a test score gives us another piece of data to determine your competitiveness for school.

When you take away that piece of data, The admissions officer is still required to make a decision about whether or not you are a strong candidate or not. So if you think of it like a pie or a percentage, right? If I take out one factor, well, I have to redistribute the percentage, the weight of everything else in order for it to still add up to 100%.

So if I’m taking out a factor like test. Course that once had a very big weight on determining the students likelihood of being admitted. Let’s say that maybe it was 25 percent for one school, right? Roughly that 25 percent is now redistributed across all these different factors that affect a student’s likelihood to be admitted.

And especially since we consider the fact that test scores really play a major role in determining a student’s competitiveness in terms of their academic performance, that means that there is definitely going to be a much larger critique on the rigor of their course load. So if you are a student who chooses not to submit your standardized test scores, but you are not taking the most challenging Courses that are available at your school, for example, that may be a bit of a flag for an admissions officer because even if you have a really high GPA, they may be wondering, well, they have a 4.0, but there are, let’s say 10 AP courses available at their school, but they only chose to take one or two. Why is that? Could they have challenged themselves more? Are they as strong of a student as we think? Are they as prepared for a really competitive university as we would like to think they are? Or even if you are taking really rigorous courses, if you have a lower GPA, Choosing not to submit that test score leaves them to really just focus on that GPA, and if you’re, say, a B student or you have a few C’s on your transcript, that’s gonna stand out a lot more than it would have if, say, you had some B’s and a C, um, but you also had, like, I don’t know, a 30 on the ACT, right?

So just keep those things in mind, as well as again, the importance of extracurriculars, especially extracurriculars that are related possibly to, um, the field that you’re hoping to major in, and then letters of rec, because that also speaks to your capacity as a student and your dedication to the field.

learning. Um, and these test free and test optional policies really are based in a push for just general equity in admissions. You may already know this, but standardized tests historically have been shown to not really be as great of an indicator of a student’s capacity, especially if they come from a diverse background, they’re a student of color, or if they come from a lower income.

background or a school that is just more poorly funded. Let’s say maybe a more rural school. So removing these test requirements allows there to be a little bit more equity in admissions since standardized testing for the most part tends to have a very strong correlation with the student’s socioeconomic background.

So with that in mind, it kind of evens the playing field for students who. tend to be disadvantaged, may come from more disadvantaged backgrounds, and are less likely to do really well on these test scores, even if they are a really great student. Um, and again, less anxiety, obviously, for students who are poor test takers.

So, if you are someone who, you know, is really smart, as I’m sure all of you are, reduce anxiety by knowing that there are Really great colleges that are not going to require you to either take a standardized test at all, if that’s something that you just want to avoid completely, or just allow you to choose to not submit those scores if you don’t do CREATE, can be a really big relief.

I can definitely say for me, as someone who was actually like a very good test taker, I still had a lot of anxiety before taking standardized tests and I still had anxiety in submitting them to the schools that I was applying to because you just never really know and so being able to have that option can really be a really big relief for a lot of students.

So, um, this is just like an article that, um, I pulled that I thought was really interesting. So, colleges that ditched test scores for admissions found it harder to be fair in choosing students. Um, so that’s just something to keep in mind, um, that in the past few years since colleges have, um, removed any requirements for standardized test scores.

It has sometimes made it harder for admissions officers to kind of make those nitty gritty decisions about which students to admit, especially if they have very similar courses, RGBAs, as well as similar extracurriculars. So that really just goes back to what I was saying earlier. About standardized test scores being able to provide an additional piece of the puzzle that just paints a clear picture of the kind of applicant that you are.

So, with this trend in mind that, you know, colleges that have chosen to remove test scores from their required application, um, there may potentially. be a rise in the next two years in colleges choosing to reinstate some sort of requirement for test scores. That may not be going back to requiring specifically the ACT and SAD, but I would not be surprised if there are more schools that offer a test flexible option.

So I’ll just go back. And that is Requiring students to provide some sort of standardized test, like an ACT and SAT, or if those are not your kind of thing, an AP exam or an IB exam. And again, that really just goes, um, it really is helpful for, um, admissions officers, because at the end of the day, every high school is different.

Right. Some high schools offer a lot more AP or IB courses, um, or dual enrollment courses. And so it is a lot easier to kind of get an idea of where a student may stand, um, in terms of their preparedness. for a university because there are more vigorous courses that they can choose to take, and their performance in those college level courses or their lack of taking those college level courses can shed a lot of light.

And then on top of that, even schools that may offer a lot of AP courses or IB courses, um, and schools that don’t, sometimes there’s a lot of grade inflation. So if the average student at some of these schools is getting, let’s say, a 3.7 GPA, then your 4.0 GPA is not going to tell us as much information as it might at another school that maybe has an average GPA of a 2.5 and you are the one student that has a 4.0 GPA, right? So having these standardized tests, even though there are a lot of concerns about equity with them, they can be really helpful in giving an admissions officer an idea Of all things held held equal, right? Everything else controlled for how do all these students perform in the exact same conditions, right?

They’re sitting in some cold classroom or some cold gym somewhere, some cold cafeteria somewhere and sitting and taking the standardized test. And they’re all answering the same kind of questions in the same amount of time. How do they perform? Right? It provides an equal bar, but again. It’s a theoretical equal bar because not every student is showing up with the same level of resources.

So, the big question that I’m sure a lot of you are asking, especially if you are a junior, maybe a sophomore as well, and maybe you’ve already taken an SAT or ACT, or at least taken a practice test and kind of have an idea of how you’re doing or how you might do, is should I still take a standardized test if I’m applying to a test optional school?

Or should I submit? my scores if I’m applying to a test optional school. So test free and test optional policies are not permanent for all schools. So if you are a freshman or a sophomore, for example, especially do not assume that this school that you’re really excited about that currently has a test for your test optional policy.

Do not assume that. that that policy will still be in effect when you are a senior and about to apply to college. Um, as I said before, with this headline, right, that a lot of colleges are finding it harder to make admissions decisions without test scores, um, there could very easily in the next few years be a rise in student enrollment.

schools requiring some kind of standardized test. So if you are in that freshman or sophomore boat or even junior boat, and you have not taken a standardized test, I would definitely recommend that you take it just so that you have something to submit. It’s not great. I’m sure you know, like everybody 36 or 1600.

But even just having something so you have the option to apply to a school that you’re really passionate about is incredibly important. And if it ends up being that you’re not even required to submit a test score to that school, and maybe you don’t want to submit your test score, then fantastic, more power to you.

But I really have hated being in a situation with students in the past where they just didn’t take standardized tests because they thought all their schools were going to not require it. And then they end up realizing that some of the schools they really wanted to apply to require test scores, but it was too late for them to take it and have the score back in time.

So just give yourself enough options by choosing to take the ACT or SAT at least one time just so that you can Put yourself out there for any school that you choose. Um, Taking, like I said, taking the ACT or SAT has almost no drawbacks besides the cost. So if you have the ability to pay those, I think, 75, I think that’s what it is, um, 75 to take the exam that one time, Um, I definitely recommend doing it.

I would still recommend trying to prepare as much as you can, even if you only take it one time, just because if you are in a situation where you have to submit it to a school that you’re really passionate about, you don’t want it to be just some throwaway test that you took where you put no effort into it.

Um, you want it to be something that you can at least somewhat be proud of, or at least say, I know I put, you know, a good amount of effort into getting that score, and I feel like it’s reflective of what I am capable of. Um, yeah, so yeah, taking a test, the ACT or the SAT, it just keeps your options open. It keeps you from being in that boat where you’re not able to apply to a certain program or not able to apply to a certain college because you just didn’t

So how can you stand out when applying to a test free school? So as a reminder, a test free school is a school that does not allow anyone to submit standardized test scores. So even if you have a 36, which, you know, for a school that actually accepts standardized test scores, fantastic! Um, but even if you have a 36 on the ACT or 1600 on the SAT, they are still not going to see it.

So it’s not going to be that impressive standout thing, um, that it would be for a school that accepts ACT or SAT scores. So how do you stand out? I would say Build really strong relationships with your teachers and ask for recommendations early because like I said Um, those letters of rec can really go a long way or a longer way Uh when it’s a test free school because it speaks to your Not only your capabilities as a student, but also the kind of student that you are.

So, are you the kind of student who is there to help, um, those around you? Are you inquisitive? Are you always trying to learn more? Um, those kinds of things. And then also asking the, uh, your teacher early. Give them time to review something that’s personalized and thoughtful. Participating in diverse and enriching extracurriculars.

Again, extracurriculars are going to have a lot of weight as well. So showing that you’re the kind of person who can be a leader in a lot of different ways or has a really deep investment in trying to better themselves outside of the classroom and enrich themselves, especially in line with things that they’re interested in studying can really be helpful in just demonstrating your ability to be not only a great student, but also a person who just Passion about learning and collaborating with other people and investing in their community.

And I would say this is the most important one, which is challenging yourself in your coursework as much as you can. So in terms of evaluating your ability to perform academically, your ability to handle college level coursework, if you are not submitting a test score, the biggest indicator of your ability to hack it in college, for lack of a better term, is taking as challenging of classes as you are able to.

Now, obviously, if you are at a school that does not offer college level courses, then do your best in the courses that are available to you. But if you are attending a school that does offer AP or IB courses, you should definitely be taking as many of them as you are able to maintain while still um, getting good grades.

Um, And consider self studying in some subjects if your school does not offer as many AP courses. So maybe your school doesn’t offer AP classes, but you’re interested in, say, majoring in psychology. So maybe you self study for AP psychology, which I’ve heard is, um, like an AP test that’s a little bit easier to study for in comparison to some others.

And that can not only, you know, Reflect positively on just your ability to do well in a college level course, but it also can reflect really positively because you’re taking that initiative to learn more and to do more outside of the things that your school specifically offers. Um, another option is taking courses over the summer.

So doing like a summer program where you’re able to dive deeper into potentially a major that you would want to study in college. And again, maintaining a high standard. GPA possible. Those are the kinds of things that are going to be really critical to stand out, especially in terms of your academics when you’re applying to a test free school.

So what counts as a beneficial test score to share to a test optional school? So I would recommend submitting your test score, definitely. if your test score is strong. And that, I’m not meaning that so much in terms of how it is like percentile wise on the ACT itself or the SAT itself. I mean in the context of that school.

So if you are applying to a really competitive school, then the 75th percentile of students or 60th percentile of students or whatever, That may still be like a 33 on the ACT, something really high that in the context of everyone who takes the exam is like 98th percentile. So if you want, if you’re trying to think about if it’s really worth submitting it, if it’s really going to add something, definitely submit it if it’s in that at or near the 75th percentile.

Um, I would say that it’s still worth it to send it honestly. It’s above the at or above the 50th percentile because you’re at least showing that you’re, you know, along the lines of an average student. But if you find that your test score is just far below, uh, what the average student who is admitted to that school is, it probably is not worth it to send it.

Um, also, it’s definitely worth it to send if you do not have other strong test scores. So let’s say that you have a low, low AP scores, um, low IB scores, you have a not the highest GPA, or at least not that high in comparison to the average student who is admitted. Um, Um, but you do have a decently strong, um, test score.

Like, like I said, maybe it’s around the 50th percentile or higher, then it would be worth it to submit it because it shows your capacity as a student. Uh, and I would say, especially in the context of student, of schools that are more competitive, where, you know, there are a lot of students that submit like 36, if you’re applying to that school and let’s say you have like a 3.2, even if your ACT score, for example, is like a 32, which may not be that high for a really competitive school. I would say it’s still worth it to submit it just because if we compare a 32 on the ACT to a 3.2 GPA, the 32 is still going to be more impressive than a 3.2 GPA. So it’s really just thinking about also.

How does your test score compare to your GPA? Is your test score more impressive than your GPA? Then you should probably still submit it, even if potentially it’s not super competitive for that school, because it may be more competitive for the school than your GPA is. And definitely consider submitting it if the school recommends submitting scores, if at all possible, because that really just goes back to what I was talking about earlier, where You know, schools try not to judge, I guess, students who choose not to submit task force, but they really prefer a lot of the time for students to submit them if possible, because it paints a clear picture.

So it’s just human nature to an extent. If they don’t have that extra piece of information and they really encourage students to try and provide that piece of information, even though it’s not technically required, sometimes. Inadvertently, people may think that there is a reason for that and that maybe that you’re not that good a test taker or that you just in fact did not do very well in standardized tests.

So looking ahead, what can we expect for standardized testing in the future? This is especially important for our underclassmen. I would say a continued but slowing shift away from ACT and SAT scores. So many schools have set an end date for their test optional, test free policies. Um, For fall of 2022 and fall of 2023.

So in the coming years, um, there will probably be a decrease in the number of schools that are not requiring test scores at all. But I believe that the test flexible option. will likely increase. So again, that means a shift away from ACT and SAT scores, but I don’t think that there are going to be as many schools that just don’t require standardized tests at all.

So it’s really important that you’re providing some sort of information about how you perform on a standardized exam. Um, I believe that standard selective colleges So we’re talking about like the Ivy Leagues or a UC Berkeley or a Stanford and UChicago, those kinds of things. Um, I think they’ll likely continue to have test optional or test flexible policies as opposed to test free.

Um, that really just boils down to, especially really selective schools wanting to have as many data points as possible to evaluate a student’s performance. So I think it’s very unlikely that these really selective schools are going to choose to not allow students to submit any sort of data. Test score because it just when you’re splitting hairs the way a school like Harvard or Yale, for example, is you just need as much information as possible and it just wouldn’t make sense for them to turn down that extra data point, even if they’re still giving students the option not to submit it if they need it.

If they choose not to like in a test optional policy, um, and again, a rising emphasis on extracurriculars and rigorous courses that really just goes hand in hand with there being an increase in the test optional policies or even test flexible, um, where they’re just not getting as much information without that standardized test score.

So that is all that I had to share. Um, in terms of my information, um, more than happy to answer some of your questions.

Lonnie: Okay, thank you. Lydia. That is now our presentation portion of the webinar. Um, so just as Cher, we are now going to move into our live questions and answers. So you are, we want to welcome and encourage you to please input your questions in the Q&A have so that we can take the opportunity to read them out loud and get your question answered.

Um, thank you to all who have, who have began submitting their questions. Okay, so our first question, university that has a four applicants maintain, t not aware, is not aware of it as the policy.

Lydia: Yeah. Um, so I can definitely name a few. So my alma mater is test flexible. Um, some other schools I can think of off the top of my head, Middlebury and UChicago, uh, last that I checked was, which were just a few months ago. Those are both test, uh, test flexible schools.

Um, and then in terms of test optional, um, Some well known test optional schools are Columbia, Cornell, Yale, and UPenn. So those are all Ivies. And then some test free schools, um, that I think are still test free as of this, uh, application scholar, uh, cycle are the UC System, Caltech, and Dickinson College. So those are like the more well known or competitive, schools that I can think of that, uh, that still have those more flexible kind of test testing policies.

Lonnie: And Lydia, where would you recommend if a student is trying to just figure out what the test policy is for a particular college or university? Where should they go?

Lydia: I recommend going directly to the school. I know that there are websites, um, that have kind of like a compiled list, but some of those sometimes those can be a bit dated, especially given the fact that a lot of universities, especially now that we’re in the year 2023 are changing their policies or tweaking them every year.

So you may have a school that. In 2020 or 2021 was completely test free because of the pandemic. But now that we’re entering back to normal. Um, now they’re either completely requiring testing, or maybe they’ve shifted to a test optional or test flexible. So definitely check the university website itself.

That’s going to have the most updated information. for that specific application cycle.

Lonnie: Thank you. Um, even if the college is test optional, should you submit if you get a good score on ACT? And, and if so, what is a good score? Um, is it beneficial to submit a score or will it hurt you?

Lydia: Well, if a school is, or a college is test optional, I would definitely go back to, um, what I was talking about here.

So if you get a good score, um, and especially like I said, think about it in the context, not so much of the percentile that you get on your score report, right? So on the ACT score report, I know getting like a 32 or a 33 on the ACT, I think already puts you in like the 98th or 99th percentile of all students.

But like the example I gave, Um, if you’re applying to a school like Harvard, I’m pretty sure that the like 75th percentile of students That is like a 35 or 36 on the ACT so it’s important to kind of think about it not just in the context of like Oh, well, I did really well in comparison to the kids at my school or I did really well in comparison to You know kids across the country you want to think about in the context of did I do really well in comparison?

to the kinds of students that are applying and being admitted to the college that I’m applying to. Um, but also maybe the score isn’t necessarily at or near the 75th percentile, but it’s still really strong. Like I said, maybe it’s a 32 and you’re applying to Harvard, but if your GPA is pretty low, or maybe you didn’t take really rigorous courses, then that 32 or 33, it may still boost you just a little bit, because it shows that you can still perform pretty well.

Because at the end of the day, like yes, a 32 and 33 is still very strong. Getting a 32 on the ACT is not going to automatically put you in the discard pile for a school like Harvard. So it’s really just about providing as much context for the kind of student that you are. And if your test floor speak to your excellence as a student or your ability to perform well as a student, then I say, yes, it is worth it to, to submit.

And if it’s a strong score, especially in the context of other students that are normally admitted there, I don’t see how that could possibly hurt you. Assuming that you yourself took that test, right? As long as you were the person that took that test and you got a good score. Um, I don’t see how that would hurt.

Lonnie: Thank you. Thank you. So I am, um, we’re going to pause for a real quick second for me to share more about the work that we do within CollegeAdvisor. So for those in the room who aren’t already working with us, um, we know how overwhelming the process can be. We’re speaking about. You know, standardized testing, whether to take the test, whether to not take it.

And so with that, our team of over 300 former admission officers and admission experts are ready to help you and your family navigate it all in one on one advising sessions. Take the next step in your college admission journey by signing up for a free consultation using the QR code on the screen.

During the consultation, a member of our team will review your current extracurricular lists, discuss how it lines up with your college goals, and help you find opportunities for growth and leadership. After scanning the QR code, you’ll be able to select a date and time for a phone conversation with a member of our team.

Okay, so now we’re going to move into the second half of our questions. And our next question reads, Does taking the SAT assist with getting merit scholarships? So

Lydia: it definitely can. So I can think of a few ways how it could. One example is the, the National Merit Scholarship. So if your school offers the PSAT, for example, and you do really well on that, then you would be asked to take the SAT if you haven’t already taken it, or you would take it, or you would continue to take it.

Um, if you, if you are, you would submit that score if you haven’t taken it. Um, and so the SAT can definitely help if you get a strong PSAT score and then a strong SAT score. Um, and then you would get a National Merit Scholarship. And then, um, That would allow you to potentially get a full tuition scholarship, um, at a few schools.

Uh, and then another way is, a lot of schools, even if you’re not a National Merit Scholar, uh, if you have a really high SAT score, Then you would be able to potentially qualify for maybe a partial tuition scholarship or a full tuition scholarship

Lonnie: Okay. Thank you And our next question reads as a sophomore should I start looking into getting teacher recommendations? Or should I wait until? Next year kind of a little steering away from the the test, you know to submit or not but Any thoughts on that question?

Lydia: Yeah, so I would say that, um, for Getting a letter of recommendation I would definitely say as a sophomore It would be too early to directly ask a teacher.

Can you write me a letter of recommendation right now? Um, but it doesn’t hurt to start building that relationship, right? So if you’re building a relationship with the student or not a student but building a relationship with the teacher And you’re starting to foster those connections And things like that, it’s definitely helpful and it doesn’t hurt to put a feeler out, for example, and say, Hey, like, I think in the future, I may want to, um, apply for college.

And I think that we have a really great relationship. I would love to be able to ask you for a recommendation down the line. It doesn’t hurt to put that feeler out and figure out if they may be an option in the future. Um, but I would not say that you should be directly asking them, mainly because, um, When you are a sophomore, you are not able to open the Common App and start on your applications yet, because they get filtered out every single, um, every single year in terms of the Common Application.

So even if they did write you one and try and upload it to the Common App, it would get filtered out. So I would recommend that you just wait until the end of your junior year or the beginning of your senior year Um, and also it’s just more beneficial to ask around that time because as a sophomore, there’s so much more that you can do in terms of building a stronger relationship, um, with your teacher.

So if you’re building a stronger relationship with your teacher during your junior year, the letter of recommendation that they can write is going to be much stronger. Um, when they are writing it after they’ve known you longer versus sophomore year, they may have only known you for a year or two.

Lonnie: Okay, um, we are getting down to the end of our questions and answers, and I, um, I’m not seeing any more questions that are, um, being asked. So, let’s see, um, yeah, Lydia, do you want to address the clarification around just like the test flexible and some of like the schools that you’ve, um, you shared out earlier?

Lydia: Yes. So, um, yeah, I know I, I said that NYU is test flexible. I know on their website it says they were test flexible years ago. Um, but if you actually go to their website, even though they are test optional, you can actually Um, and see that you can still apply, for example, with three AP exams. Um, so even though they can consider themselves text test optional in terms of the definitions that we’ve used today for test flexible, um, they would be considered test flexible still since you can choose to submit, um, an AP exam in the stead of an SAT or ACT.

Um, And for you, Chicago, um, I mean, I think that you could still, I guess test, I would say that test optional is considered if we put them in tiers, right? Test optional means that you technically can choose to submit no standardized tests at all. So if you see a school that has shifted from test flexible to test optional, then that actually would be beneficial for you in the context of someone who.

Does not want to submit test scores because that means that you would not even need to submit. Um, a a standardized test of any sort. Um, a bigger concern would be if a school if we set a school was test optional, but they actually were test flexible because that would mean that a student is actually required to submit some sort of, um, test.

So even though NYU on their website says that they are test optional, um, they still allow you to submit other forms of, of test scores instead of the ACT or SAT UChicago.

Lonnie: All righty. Well, thank you so much, Lydia, for that clarification. Um, and with that, that is, we’re actually, um, Going to wrap up our webinar.

Um, and so thank you so much for providing this really great information on, you know, everything has to do with standardized tests. I know that our audience found it very informative as I did as well and for our audience. Just, um, want to give you a sense of what’s coming up, you know, for our webinars. So every week we have, um, a webinar that’s geared towards supporting you, um, within the college application process.

This month we have some really special webinars that are going to continue to come up that are designed to kind of dig more into specific, um, colleges as relates to their essay requirements, as well as even their overall application. So we definitely look forward to seeing you in an upcoming webinar.

And thank you all again for your questions and have a great morning, afternoon or evening. Thank you. Bye.