The Test-Optional Beneficiaries
As loyal readers of our college admissions blog know all too well, we believe that test-optional admissions policies don’t mean all that much. All else being equal, a student with great test scores will always have an advantage over a student with no test scores. Never, however, did we suggest that some students without test scores would not be able to earn admission to elite universities. After all, while we have long suggested that many admissions officers at elite universities don’t exactly tell it like it is, to not admit some students without scores under their new test-optional admissions policies wouldn’t even sit well with them. It’s why we have argued that a significant percentage of admits who do not submit test scores to elite universities will be low-income students, first-generation college students, and/or underrepresented minorities — and deservedly so! These students so often don’t get to receive fancy test prep. They don’t get to take the SAT or ACT multiple times. And sometimes they’ve got more important things to deal with at home, like watching their siblings while their parents are working double shifts, so they just don’t have time to study the vocab cards for plethora and copious.
A recent piece in The Stanford Daily by Nascha Martinez entitled “Incoming frosh reflect on Stanford’s test-optional admissions policies” shines a spotlight on our argument that these groups are the ones who benefit from test-optional admissions policies, which we of course fully support. As Martinez writes, “Emily Macias ’25 applied to Stanford during a global pandemic and amid fast-changing testing requirements. Test-prep affordability and difficulty in finding testing centers made Stanford’s move to test-optional ‘a relief,’ as she could not take the test before her senior year due to COVID-19. ‘I am FLI [first generation and/or low income], so I could not afford any SAT prep courses,’ Macias wrote to The Daily. Stanford’s test-optional policy meant that Macias ‘no longer had to worry about long studying hours, testing stress or the possibility of not being able to find an unfilled testing site near me.’ Incoming frosh report that Stanford’s test-optional admissions policy reduced stress and allowed more time to focus on other aspects of college applications.”
We love that America’s elite colleges, like Stanford, are doing away with barriers that for too long have made it more difficult for low-income, first-generation, and/or underrepresented minority groups to earn admission. We just wish admissions officers would be more forthright about test-optional admissions because by suggesting that all students are at no disadvantage for not submitting test scores — which is patently false — it only adds confusion to an already stressful process. Why not just tell it like it is? Students who can’t afford fancy test prep, students who are too busy working to help their parents pay the bills, students whose parents never went to college…these constitute the vast majority of students who can still earn admission to elite universities without SAT and ACT scores. Why is it so hard to say? The truth will set these admissions officers free.
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