Test Scores Matter Even at Test-Optional Schools

Test Scores, Test Optional Colleges, Test Optional Universities

The University of Chicago recently decided to go test-optional (photo credit: Michael Barera).

The test scores of applicants to test-optional colleges don’t matter, right? Wrong. Of course test scores matter to test-optional schools. Sure, the University of Chicago may have recently gone test-optional but you don’t think it’ll help a student’s case for admission to submit a perfect or near-perfect SAT or ACT score to this elite school? If not, you’re kidding yourself. In fact, we’d go one step further. We’d argue that the test scores of applicants to test-optional colleges matter even more to these schools than they did before the schools decided to go test-optional.

Debunking the Myth that Test Scores Don’t Matter at Test-Optional Schools

But why, Ivy Coach? Think big fish, small pond. Test scores continue to influence a school’s “US News & World Report” ranking. Every college — even test-optional schools like the University of Chicago — cares deeply about its ranking. A school’s ranking is everything. The students who thus continue to submit test scores to test-optional colleges influence the schools’ scores for their rankings even more than they would if the schools still required such scores because there’s a smaller pool of test submitters.

So when we read an editorial on the pages of “The Lexington Herald Leader” by John R. Thelin entitled “Silver lining: Test scores mattering less in college admissions,” we can’t help but shake our heads in frustration. One of the core objectives of our college admissions blog is to correct misconceptions about the college admissions process and this piece’s title is perpetuating an admissions falsehood. It’s entirely misleading.

Indeed Mr. Thelin even expands on this falsehood when he writes, “The University of Chicago has long had the luxury of choice among applicants with high SAT scores. Now, the message is that even admissions officers at a selective college are not sure what the SAT measures. As often happens in college admissions, where the University of Chicago leads, others will follow. So, an applicant has new choices: ‘How do I best present myself to the dean of admissions?’ It calls for creativity and persuasion. When standardized test scores are optional, a student has to ask ‘What does my SAT score tell about me? Do I wish to include or exclude this in my self-portrait?'”

Let’s put it this way: applying to schools without test scores is akin to painting a self portrait with only your fingers. It can work out (at test-optional schools) but there are paintbrushes for a reason. That portrait will come out a whole lot better with the help of a brush.

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