Taking the temperature of test-optional college approach 

An ACT test in July in Oklahoma left at least two students dealing with a positive result for Covid-19 the next day with dozens more exposed to the virus. In this environment, sitting for the ACT and SAT takes some serious consideration.

Standardized tests have taken a beating since claims of cheating, discrimination and now potential exposure to the coronavirus. A test-optional trend has become a stampede as 

universities from coast to coast are choosing to no longer require these exams. But testing remains a good barometer of accountability, objectivity, and especially, comparability among the pool of future college freshmen.

While more than 1,100 universities have eliminated or suspended ACT and SAT tests as an admission requirement, many parents and students still fear that not taking the test could hurt their chances of getting accepted into a good college.

Test-optional colleges weigh acceptance algorithm differently

Rising juniors and seniors and their parents are feeling trapped by conflicting opinions on testing and test-optional colleges during the coronavirus crisis.

Our advice is to prepare for an ACT/SAT date regardless if you ever actually take one or both tests. You have learned from your PSAT and early high school classes where your weaknesses lie. Preparing for a big test is an excellent way to strengthen your high school resume. Reach out to teachers and counselors for help and suggestions and work with a tutor to gain confidence with any lagging math, science and social studies skills.

Colleges are scrutinizing high school grades more closely as well; never forget any college wants to see measurable improvement in an area that did not start strong. Don’t obsess over getting a great test score but instead focus on what you can control now—better understanding and grades, college-prep course performance and student interests and passions.

Test-optional universities will examine other areas such as the rigor of course work, active participation in class and extracurricular activities, recommendations and application essays. Stand out with showcasing your intimate knowledge and how your after-school passion fits in with your college of choice. Identify a particular course at a college that speaks to who you want to be or how it will make you a future leader.

Read the requirements of each school carefully

Still, pour through the requirements at each university. If you are hoping for a merit scholarship, that ACT/SAT test may be necessary. Just because a school calls itself test-optional, it is not a blanket policy. Some schools might still require test scores for certain majors or applications from other countries. 

Now is the time to hone your strengths and address your weak points. Expand the bullet points of your high school resume, reach out to prospective school admissions’ staff and build a connection—with or without that ACT/SAT score.

–MIKE RYAN