Test-Optional Schools

Over the past several years, many institutions have moved toward test-optional admissions.

This movement has steadily gained momentum as scoring and cheating scandals have unfolded around the world and many have questioned the correlation between test scores and success in a college curriculum.

Colleges and universities, particularly the most elite institutions, are motivated by an additional factor—brand management—and have a strong interest in test-optional admissions primarily for its marketing value.

Test-optional enables them to admit otherwise appealing candidates who can now elect to omit their sub-par scores, thereby preserving the school’s high average SAT for the incoming freshman class

At the same time, the high scorers in the freshman class will submit their scores, which are then reported in all of the rankings and guidebooks that next year’s applicants will eagerly peruse.

And just like that, the institution’s average test score is extremely high and their reputation as exclusive and selective is preserved.

This creates an interesting opportunity for students who, in addition to stellar extracurricular activities, recommendations, essays and grades, can also include exceptional standardized testing results as part of their applications.

Admissions officers glean information about students through as many lenses as they can, and the more input they have, the more confident they are in their decisions to admit.

Testing is one of the few components of the application that can be leveraged predictably, and high test scores will always provide a competitive edge in the selection process, particularly at test-optional schools.

In the smaller pool of students submitting tests, this is an opportunity to rise to the top with superior scores.

Test scores are an important yield tool at some institutions, as they are often the primary criterion for merit-based scholarships, which we have seen more and more of over the last few admissions cycles in an effort to entice students to enroll at one school over another.

We can expect to continue to see incentives offered by colleges and universities to attract top students across the country while overall enrollments are plummeting due to travel and other COVID-19-related restrictions.

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