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SAT/ACT Optional Schools

Your palms become sweaty. Your breath grows shallower. Your hands tremble as you sharpen your number 2 pencils. And as you slowly take your seat, your anxiety level reaches an all-time high. You are about to take a standardized test.

Taking standardized tests can often be a stressful undertaking for students. The intense pressure to perform, the strict timed sections and the overall high stakes nature lead to less than ideal conditions (and scores). If you're a student who doesn't fare well in these scenarios, you might want to research SAT/ACT optional schools.

A growing number of competitive and prestigious colleges are joining the SAT/ACT-optional ranks. They recognize that students are more than their test scores and understand that intelligent, talented and driven applicants often lie behind what could be perceived as a mediocre (or even sub-par) score.

Historically, liberal arts colleges were the first schools to lead the test-optional charge. With smaller applicant pools, admissions officers at these institutions have always managed to bring a personal approach to their work. They tend to focus on the individual and truly consider facets such as essays and interviews in addition to quantitative data. However, as the movement has grown, larger universities have begun to pick up the mantle as well.

Many of the schools that have made the transition to SAT/ACT optional still require their students (once enrolled) to submit their scores. Internal research conducted by these institutions has demonstrated no significant difference in academic achievement between undergrads who sent in their results with their applications and those who withheld. Moreover, test optional schools have seen their application numbers increase steadily, especially from minority students.

While standardized tests have lost some of their merit and their weight, the degree to which schools become test-optional varies. Some universities might use the SATs/ACTs for academic placement and advising only. Other schools only require applicants to submit scores if they don’t meet specific GPA minimums or if they are from out-of-state. Further, a number of schools allow students to opt out of the SAT I or ACT if they submit SAT IIs, International Baccalaureate or AP scores. Still other colleges ask applicants to submit a paper, experiment or project in lieu of test scores. And, of course, a handful of schools are test-optional, no strings attached.

Applying to test-optional colleges does not necessarily mean your chances of acceptance are greater. Conversely, applying with less than stellar scores to a school that does require the SAT or ACT doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be out of the running. However, if you are college-bound and worried about your results, do yourself a favor and check out some of these schools! 



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Don Munce