Test Optional? Should I Still Take the SAT? Still Take the ACT?
Last updated January 24, 2021
In light of testing cancellations and obstacles created by COVID-19 more than half of all 4-year colleges have decided to go “test optional” for Fall 2021 admissions (and possibly beyond). In fact, if you're applying to a University of California (UC) or California State University (CSU) system college, a recent ruling prevents all CSU and UC schools from even accepting SAT or ACT scores for all applications during the 2021 and 2022 application cycles. This means SAT or ACT scores are not necessarily a required part of the application. You may now be wondering if you should still take the SAT or ACT. We’ve answered some of your questions on these recent changes to admissions testing to help you decide if you should (or should not) take the SAT or ACT to prepare for the college applications process.
What does “test optional” mean?
There are a number of different ways that colleges are handling the submission of SAT or ACT scores, so make sure you know exactly how the colleges you are interested in are approaching it.
- Truly test optional schools will let you decide if you want to submit your test scores. If submitted, the school will take SAT or ACT scores into consideration but may focus on other parts of the application more.
- Test flexible schools will allow you to submit scores for the SAT or ACT, OR a different test in their place (such as a SAT Subject Test or AP test).
- Test blind schools will not consider any scores, even if you include them in the application.
If I end up taking the SAT or ACT, do I have to submit my score?
No. You control the release of your test scores but some colleges are still requiring the SAT or ACT, so make sure to check each application closely. College Board and the ACT will not release your scores without your consent.
If I don’t take the SAT or ACT will it hurt my application?
If the college does not require the test, then generally NO, it will not hurt your application. But know that without test scores other parts of your application will become more important. This includes your GPA, your college essay, awards and achievements, references, and any extracurricular activities you include. Worried that COVID-19 has impacted your extracurricular work? Check out 10 Activities to Boost your College Application. So make sure to really put the time and effort into your studies now and into your college essay (check out our essay tips and free review).
What are the benefits of taking the SAT or ACT even if my school doesn’t require a test score?
There are still many benefits of taking these exams even if you don’t end up submitting your score on your college application.
- 25 states require SAT or ACT scores as part of high school graduation requirements. Check with your high school counselor to determine if your state requires a score from one of these two tests to receive your high school diploma.
- Many colleges, including test optional schools, will use SAT or ACT scores to award merit scholarships for incoming students. If you do well on the test, your scores could benefit your financial aid greatly!
- Research shows up to 60% of scholarships require an SAT or ACT score to be submitted as part of the application process. Check out these Easy Scholarships You Can Apply to Right Now
- And if you are a great test taker, taking the tests may boost your application.