Should students submit SAT or ACT test scores to test-optional universities? A high school counselor at Clairton High School in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania has offered the absolutely correct advice. In a piece in The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette by Bill Shackner entitled “More colleges are making the SAT optional. Should high school students still take them?,” the high school counselor, Maureen Shaw, is quoted: “Use it if it helps you. Don’t use it if it doesn’t.” Well said. She’s precisely correct. If a student has a high SAT or ACT score, above the university’s mean, it should be submitted. If a student has a low SAT or ACT scores, below the university’s mean, it should not be submitted. It’s that simple. But, Ivy Coach, that’s all you’ve got…nothing else to add? Oh please, we’ll add some more of our trademark spice.
Think hard about this advice. If America’s elite colleges truly didn’t care if students submitted SAT or ACT test scores or not, this would not be our advice. Instead, our advice would be: submit your test scores if it pleases you or don’t submit them if it doesn’t please you as it will make no difference in the admissions process. But, of course, that’s not true. As Ivy Coach has argued from atop our soapbox in elite college admissions since so many top colleges switched to test-optional admissions policies at the start of the pandemic, all else being equal, students with great test scores will always have an advantage in the admissions process over students with no test scores.
So while Ms. Shaw’s advice is spot on, we wish to add a little bit of extra sauce to the response that she offers her students: “Use it if it helps you. Don’t use it if it doesn’t. And if doesn’t help you, keep testing as much as you can until it does help you. Get that test prep! If, after all that extra test prep, it still doesn’t help you, then we get that you won’t be able to submit a score. But do try!“
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