Though it may seem stereotypical, some students really are better at taking standardized tests than others. People learn and retain information differently, a notion that many colleges and universities are factoring into their admissions decisions. More than 800 U.S. schools have already adopted policies that place little to no importance on test scores, and even more are expected to follow suit. Such admissions practice is referred to as “test optional,” and it provides many college-bound students with just the edge they need to get into their school of choice.
Why Do Schools Go Test Optional?
Test-optional schools embrace the idea that standardized test scores don’t always reflect a student’s full range of abilities or potential to succeed in a college curriculum. Letting students decide whether or not to submit test scores allows them to showcase their strongest attributes, and it lends a hand to students who may not have access to traditional test-preparation resources. The practice also gives schools a wider pool of qualified applicants to choose from.
While some colleges’ admissions requirements are completely test-free, other institutions offer more of a mixed bag. For example, some schools may still look at test scores, but in combination with other factors like GPA or personal essays. Others factor in test scores only at the request of the student.
Alternate Academic Requirements
In the absence of testing requirements, most colleges place increased importance on an applicant’s high school academic record, as well as related criteria that aid in determining whether a student will be a good fit for their institution. Common alternatives to test scores include:
• Writing samples
• Face-to-face interviews
• Letters of recommendation
• Charity/volunteer work
• Evidence of experiential learning or extracurricular achievement
Should You Apply to Test-Optional Schools?
Remember that there are many important criteria to consider in choosing a college—testing requirements are just one. But for students who have trouble preparing for standardized tests, or for those who have a specific learning impairment when it comes to testing, a test-optional school could be the right choice. Find a complete list of test-optional U.S. schools at www.fairtest.org.