How “Test-Optional” Has Changed the Application Process

Ethan Blanks, Managing Editor

With COVID-19 came new and foreign ideology that was used to cope with the restrictions put into place.  Other than masks and social distancing, college admissions officers around the nation were faced with dealing with the inevitable cancellations of the often crowded SAT and ACT testing sites. This led to a movement of top-tier colleges moving to test-optional or test-blind standards, letting the applicants themselves decide if they wanted to submit their scores. Some noted that the inclusion of a high SAT or ACT score could sway your chances of admission, while others decided they would not accept test scores at all in attempts to create a level playing field for all applicants. 

This option was highly taken advantage of by the SHS student graduates of both 2020 and 2021, with the Class of 2022 looking like they will be following in similar footsteps as this leniency stays in place. Though many students have the option to take the tests this year, some have found it easier to apply to “reach” schools, as they could stand out with higher SAT scores amongst those who did not submit. On the contrary, students who have trouble with standardized testing may find these new options to be extremely helpful in letting their GPA and extracurricular activities shine, rather than an SAT score that does not properly reflect their academic ability. 

The decision of whether or not to submit test scores varies from person to person and school to school. Scituate High School senior Brett Dupont felt that the scores would help his chances, explaining how he feels his “SAT score helps make [him] a very good candidate for target schools.” Dupont still expressed comfort in the ability to decide, however, stating that “the option [to declare scores] has made the SAT process less stressful.” 

The pandemic and the hybrid learning model may have impacted some students’ SAT and ACT results during the 2020-2021 school year. Senior Daniel Luscombe found “some questions on the test that [he] had never even seen before.” Luscombe also commented on how the test-optional movement has been positive, just in case students didn’t learn everything.

The change has also affected the SHS counseling suite, as it has changed the norm for the group. SHS counselor James Cooney found that SAT test-optional schools have helped, saying it “lessens anxiety for students.”  Cooney also stated that two to three years ago only around 700 schools were test-optional. Currently, approximately 1700 schools are following this trend.