Test Optional or Limiting Your Options?
Increasingly colleges and universities are considering test-optional college policies. As you prepare to apply for college this often only adds to the difficulty and confusion of an already complex process. ACT is here to help answer your questions as you navigate this process.
Your college application is like a jigsaw puzzle. With each piece of information—GPA, extracurricular activities, volunteer hours, test scores, awards—you are giving colleges a more complete picture of who you are. If you don't include an ACT score, you're removing part of the picture. And in this case, the missing piece could draw negative attention.
Should I still take the ACT® test if colleges and universities use test-optional admissions policies?
Yes, but don't just take our word for it. The University of Chicago, the first well-known university to go test-optional, still encourages students to take the ACT or SAT.
"The SAT, ACT, and other standard measures can continue to be an important part of the University of Chicago's holistic admission process for students electing to send scores and are a required part of the application process at many other highly selective schools. These tests can provide valuable information about a student which we and other colleges will consider alongside the other elements in a student's application. We encourage students who have been able to take the SAT or ACT to share their scores with us if you think that they are reflective of your ability and potential."
And, just because one college is test-optional doesn't mean that's the case for all the colleges you're interested in attending. Choosing not to test means choosing to limit your options.
How will it affect my college application if I do or don't submit a test score to a test-optional college?
Even if you're given the choice, it's best to submit a test score to test-optional colleges. Each institution sets their own test-optional policy and not all policies are the same, but here are some examples.
At Creighton University students can apply test optional without it affecting admission decisions or merit-based scholarships. However, "Enrolling students will be required to submit official ACT or SAT scores for advising purposes."
At Boston College, "In reviewing applications that do not include standardized test results, the Admission Committee places greater emphasis on other required application credentials including academic performance, rigor of coursework, placement in class, personal statements, recommendations, and co-curricular involvement."
Colleges and universities understand the value standardized test scores provide in helping students succeed in college. According to Boston College, "Our research routinely demonstrates that the inclusion of standardized testing as part of our holistic review process provides the greatest predictive value toward ensuring student success."
Bottom line, just because a college is test-optional doesn't mean tests are not considered important to your ability to succeed.
Will I still qualify for merit scholarships if I don't submit a test score to a test-optional college?
Students with an ACT test score qualify for more scholarships. Even test-optional colleges often require a test score when awarding merit-based scholarships. Without an ACT score, you could be missing out on thousands of dollars in scholarship money.
At Indiana State University, "Standardized test scores (SAT or ACT) are not required for undergraduate applicants. The SAT or ACT will be required for certain merit-based scholarships. Students wishing to be considered are advised to send official scores to the Office of Admission."
Looking for more useful tips and information? Explore College & Career Planning Resources from ACT!
A version of the this article appeared on the ACT website.