Test Prep

How Do I Explain Why I’m Not Submitting Test Scores to Colleges?

Andrea Piacquadio

One of the colleges I'm applying to wants test-optional students to submit a statement about why they are applying test optional. For me it's because I only had a chance to test once due to COVID-19 and those scores weren't good, and then the pandemic arrived. But I think they're going to wonder why that one sitting was bad. What should I say in this statement?


"The Dean" is irked by colleges that aren't demanding test scores this year and yet still expect applicants to explain why they're not submitting them. So if the application hasn't required you to say that you did test that one time, you can simply say:

"My intended test dates last spring and summer were canceled, and the closest test site I could find was in a state several hours from home. My school counselor is adamant that students should not travel for tests and that colleges with test-optional policies won't penalize those who apply test-optional."

But if you are asked about your testing history, it's a bad idea to lie outright. Instead, you can use the answer above but preface it with this:

I tested one time without preparation because I wanted to use the initial test to help me identify weaknesses and to prepare for the "real" SAT [or ACT], which I planned to take at least once more and possibly twice. But then, due to COVID-19, my two intended test dates last spring and summer were canceled ...

Or ... you can even go out on a limb and take a crusader's stance:

"I'm applying test-optional because I've never believed that standardized test scores provide a fair assessment of any student's achievements and abilities or an accurate prediction of college success."

Hopefully, one of these three approaches sounds right to you. Good luck!

About the Ask the Dean Column

Sally Rubenstone is a veteran of the college admissions process and is the co-author of three books covering admissions. She worked as a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years and has also served as an independent college counselor, in addition to working as a senior advisor at College Confidential since 2002. If you'd like to submit a question to The Dean please email us at editorial@collegeconfidential.com.