As loyal readers of our college admissions blog know all too well, we don’t believe “test-optional” policies are worth the paper they are written on. All else being equal, a student who doesn’t submit test scores just isn’t going to have the same chance at earning admission to a “test-optional” school as a student who submits great scores — irrespective of what the admissions officers at those universities may tell you to the contrary. And yet some of these same admissions officers get all flummoxed if you actually suggest that they’re not telling it like it is. Well, they aren’t telling it like it is. As a case in point, let’s zoom in on the University of Michigan’s “test-optional” policy this year.
Michigan Is “Test-Optional” This Year in Admissions
On its website, UMichigan’s admissions office writes, “The COVID19 pandemic continues to create unique challenges for students. For the 2020-21 application cycle, students who are unable to provide standardized test scores are encouraged to apply and will not be disadvantaged in the application process. Applications will be reviewed with the information a student is able to provide.” In short, UMichigan is “test-optional” this year — just like the vast majority of highly selective universities. UMichigan states on its own website that students who don’t submit test scores won’t be disadvantaged. So college applicants should believe them, right?
Yet UMichigan Asks Students Who Don’t Submit Scores to Explain Why
Well, no. And don’t just take our word for it. Take Michigan’s word for it. In a recent email to high school students, UMichigan’s admissions office wrote, “If you have not taken the SAT or ACT or are unable to, or do not have other scores to submit, you should use the COVID-19 question on the application to explain. You can self-report your test results on your application OR have them submitted electronically directly from the testing agency.” Our translation: Everyone is suffering during this pandemic. Everyone had difficulty with testing this year. But unless you provide us a great excuse for why you’re not submitting testing like so many others, you’re going to be at a distinct disadvantage. In fact, you’re going to have to reserve the optional Covid-19 essay to explain yourself.
“Test-Optional” Is Just Plain Absolute Nonsense
UMichigan’s communication to students further exemplifies that “test-optional” policies — in spite of what some vocal admissions officers may say to the contrary — are just simply meaningless. UMichigan, like so many of our nation’s elite colleges, are just talking out of two sides of their mouth with respect to testing. And if you don’t believe us, fine. If you’re the parent of twins, have one of your children apply with strong test scores and have your other twin not submit scores. See who earns admission. Or don’t do this experiment at all because it’s ridiculous — both of your children should be applying with test scores. Come on now!
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