Why Fewer Colleges Require the SAT or ACT and Why You Should Still Send Them
So you’re a bad test-taker, or you at least think you are. The idea of walking into a quiet-as-death room and filling in dark ovals for the next 4 hours terrifies you. First thing: you’re probably overthinking it, and if you’d just settle down, read the questions, and remember your training, things will work out fine. If not? Well, more than 800 colleges and universities across the U.S. no longer require ACT/SAT scores, so it may not be the end of the world after all. Here’s why many no longer want to see your scores, and why you should still be sending them anyway.
Education is Dynamic.
An old western civilization teacher, when teaching a unit on religions of the world, once said something that has always stuck with me. “The religions of the world that survive are the ones that change with the times and cultures.” Education is no different. The world of today is not the same as the world of 20 years ago. Colleges and universities are on to that, and they know that a single test score is not an adequate determination of a student’s failures or competence.
ACT/SAT Test Scores Don’t Tell the Whole Story.
Concerned about that lone C on your high school transcript? Maybe you’re the type of student, who is always on the verge of an A, but never quite there. Or perhaps you ace every class you’re in while also juggling yearbook staff, band, football squad and a variety of other high school activities. As “smart” as the ACT and SAT tests are, they’re woefully in the dark as to the whole story of what makes you…you! FairTest Public Education Director Bob Schaeffer said it best when he told the Huffington Post in November 2012 that colleges and universities “recognize that neither the SAT nor ACT measures what students most need to succeed in higher education.”
“Even the tests’ sponsors admit that an applicant’s high school record remains a better predictor of college performance than either exam is,” Schaeffer added.
Colleges and Universities are Looking for a More Diversified Population.
Schaeffer, in the same HuffPost article, called the tests “biased, coachable, educationally damaging and irrelevant to sound admissions practices.” This belief is somewhat backed up by the experience of schools like Wake Forest (WFU) that stopped requiring students to submit SAT scores and noticed an uptick in their school’s diversity. WFU’s Admissions Director Martha Allman called the test-optional policy “empowering” and said that it has “allowed our admissions committee to be more individualized and deliberate about our decisions.”
“Too often, standardized test scores can be used unfairly in admissions as a crutch in the evaluation process or a tie-breaker in otherwise close decisions,” Allman said.
Why You Should Still Send ACT/SAT Scores
The number of schools across the country that endorse WFU’s “test-optional” policy (or something similar) is around 850. There are around 2,474 combined public and private 4-year institutions in the U.S. Additionally, there are 1,666 combined public and private 2-year institutions. Refusing to submit ACT or SAT scores greatly reduces your available options and it also adds a lot of headache and stress to your already stressful life in the sense that you’ll have to research all the different schools that have the test-optional policy and determine whether each one is right for you. Other reasons why you should still submit:
Your ACT/SAT Score Doesn’t Have to Be Gangbusters.
For most colleges and universities that require ACT/SAT scores for acceptance, the bar is set at a reasonable level. (ACT is generally around a 17/36, while SAT scores vary to a greater degree but bare minimums come in around 1280 or 1300 out of 2400 possible.) In other words, if you are performing in that B to C level in school, then you stand a very good chance of being accepted to most colleges and universities.
Sending ACT/SAT Scores Is Convenient.
No one is telling you to go along with the crowd, but let’s be realistic. ACT and SAT scores have a social component to them in high school. Students get together in groups and decide to take the test together so there is a familiar face there, and hopefully someone to go grab a latte with and discuss how you performed after it’s all over. This is the reality for most high school students across America, and if you are going to be taking the test anyway, you might as well embrace the convenience of sending your scores to some preferred institutions. An average score will certainly not hurt your chances, you can always take the test again to try and do better, and a good score may actually get you the scholarship you’re looking for from the school you want, thus taking a load off the brain for the remainder of your high school years. There is very little to lose.
It’s Icing on the Cake.
All of the colleges and universities are starting to put a greater emphasis on high school grades, level of activity, written essays, and in-person interviews for aiding in the admissions process. If you’ve managed to do well in all of these areas, then a 24 or above on the ACT or a 1500 or above on the SAT will just sweeten the deal and expedite acceptance.
Changes aren’t Coming Fast Enough.
The changes in the world of higher education are coming fast and furious. Eight hundred fifty is a large number and a predictor of things to come in the de-emphasizing of importance for the ACT and SAT. But the fact remains the majority of colleges and universities still require them as a means to admission, and even for the schools that don’t, they can help your chances of financial aid and acceptance success. While the landscape in five or ten years may be considerably different, you’re eyeing your degree plan now, and should hedge your bets.
What Will You Choose?
How about it, readers? Have you taken the ACT or SAT yet? If not, do you plan to? And if you don’t plan to, what steps are you taking to make your application package an attractive one? Sound off in the comments section.