The Ivy Coach Daily

October 15, 2020

Test-Optional Means Diddly-Squat

Mask wearing is optional in Deadwood, SD.

In certain states in our union, wearing a mask in crowded stores is optional. Go to the mining town of Deadwood, South Dakota, the resting place of Calamity Jane and Wild Bill, and you’ll find few folks in masks. Heck, few folks there even have masks in their pockets — much less covering their noses and mouths — in spite of the state health department’s recommendation. Wearing a mask, technically, is optional in South Dakota. So does that mean South Dakotans shouldn’t wear masks? Of course not. Now apply that same logic to the SAT and ACT in a year in which so many highly selective colleges have gone test-optional. That’s right. That which is optional in highly selective college admissions should not actually be considered optional.

Don’t Wear Masks, Don’t Take Tests At Your Own Risk

Yet so many admissions officers this year are perpetuating the misconception that students don’t need to submit test scores. Sure, there are going to be many students who earn admission this year to highly selective colleges without test scores — these schools are going to have to admit some of these applicants. But there are also going to be many applicants who submit great test scores who have a major leg up over applicants who don’t submit scores at all. Sure, applicants don’t need to submit test scores. Residents of Deadwood, South Dakota don’t need to wear masks. But students who don’t submit test scores will be at a disadvantage. And with respect to the folks in Deadwood, COVID-19 cases are spiking big time in your state.

Some Admissions Officers Don’t Tell It Like It Is

So when we read a quote in a piece in The New York Times from Douglas Christiansen, vice provost for university enrollment affairs and dean of admissions and financial aid at Vanderbilt University, in which he underscored the point that test-optional means optional, you can imagine that we rolled our eyes not once but twice. As he states, “With regard to the SAT or ACT, ultimately, the decision to apply test-optional is the prospective student’s alone. If a university is test-optional, then the test truly is optional. And it isn’t necessary to sit for an exam at all. However, if a test result is in hand, then a good rule of thumb is to carefully research past entering score ranges for the universities you are considering before deciding whether to submit or not. But test-optional means test-optional.”

Test-Optional Is a Test In and Of Itself

Can our readers now see what we see? Yes, Mr. Christiansen, if a university is test-optional, then the test truly is optional. True statement. But two things can also be true. Just because it’s optional doesn’t mean students shouldn’t submit scores. Just because it’s optional doesn’t mean students who submit great scores have an advantage over students who don’t submit scores. Come on now, Mr. Christiansen. Folks weren’t born yesterday. The truth of the matter is that test optional is a test in and of itself.

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