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Test-Optional Colleges Pledge to Judge Applications Holistically

Test-Optional Colleges Pledge to Judge Applications Holistically
Izzy Hall

In response to the coronavirus pandemic and the way it has made it harder than ever to take the SAT and ACT, many colleges and universities, from large state universities to small liberal arts colleges, have announced that their admissions for next year’s Class of 2025 will be test-optional. Test-optional admissions mean that schools won’t require a submission of a standardized test score as part of the admissions process. But how will admissions officials judge applicants without a score? Will a student who doesn’t submit a standardized test score be penalized in any way? And will a student who does submit a score be chosen over one who doesn’t?

The confusion of just how test-optional these new test-optional schools will be has caused uncertainty for students, their families and the school counselors advising them in their college application process. To clear the air, the National Association for College Admission Counseling created an open letter, signed by over 500 test-optional colleges, that pledges that 2020-2021 applicants will be judged in a truly test-optional way, without penalizing students who do not submit a test score.

Instead, the pledged schools will judge students “holistically” – or in a more qualitative, student-focused way. This may mean a greater focus on student’s grades, chosen courses in high school, and the all-important personal statement. It’s likely that colleges will take into account the affects the coronavirus has had on students’ educations as reported in the new Common App COVID-19 question.

Furthermore, students who have taken the SAT or ACT and have a score they’d like to submit to a test-optional school won’t receive special treatment compared to students who do not submit scores. That way, students who couldn’t take a standardized test due to cancellation, illness or lack of available testing dates won’t be penalized for situations firmly out of their control.

How many colleges on your list have adopted test-optional policies this year? Do you think test-optional policies will help or hinder your chance to get into a chosen school? Let us know in the comments below.

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