May 13, 2024, at 10:00 a.m.

The landscape of college admissions has evolved significantly with the introduction of test-optional policies. 

These policies allow students to choose whether to submit standardized test scores (like the SAT or ACT) as part of their applications. 

Understanding the implications of these policies is crucial for prospective college students, especially as they plan their testing and application strategies.

The college consultants at the College Planning Center help high school students apply to colleges with test-optional policies, including how to make an informed decision about submitting test scores.Do I Need SAT and ACT For College Admission?

The term test-optional means different things at different institutions. Some schools have adopted this policy as a permanent change, while others might revert to requiring test scores in the future.

For instance, a college that is test-optional for the Fall 2024 admissions cycle might require test scores for Fall 2025 applicants.

Thorough research into the specific requirements of each college can significantly impact a student’s application approach, instilling a sense of preparedness and confidence in the college application process.

Should I Send My Test Scores?

Even when scores are optional, students should consider preparing for and taking standardized tests. Tests can provide valuable insights into a student’s academic abilities that might not be fully represented by high school grades alone.

For students with inconsistent grades, a strong test score can enhance their application.

The College Planning Center in South Carolina emphasizes that test preparation for standardized exams like the Digital SAT and ACT remains a crucial aspect of the college admissions process for many high school students, helping them to improve test scores and strengthen their college applications.Conversely, students with strong grades but lower test scores might benefit from withholding their scores, focusing the admissions committee’s attention solely on their coursework and grades.

How to Build a Study Plan?

Students should participate in standardized testing options like the PSAT, PreACT, Digital SAT, or ACT to determine their comfort level with each format.

Preparation resources such as testing coaches, prep classes, and online practice materials can help alleviate anxiety and improve performance.

What is the importance of test scores beyond college admissions?

When deciding whether to submit test scores, students should research their target schools thoroughly. This includes understanding the typical academic and testing profiles of previously accepted students.

If a student’s GPA is strong and they have taken rigorous courses but their test scores are below the median for accepted students, applying test-optional might be beneficial.

However, it’s essential to consider that test scores may be required for other reasons beyond admissions, such as college course placement, out-of-state applications, specific program entry, or scholarship eligibility.

This reduces barriers for students who might struggle with standardized tests but excel in other academic and creative areas. However, a high school transcript is still crucial for college applications.What Schools Are Test-Optional?

Resources, such as FairTest,  provide updated lists of colleges with test-optional policies. Students should utilize these tools to stay informed about the testing requirements of each college they consider.

Ultimately, while many factors influence college admissions decisions—including extracurricular activities, leadership roles, sports participation, and other personal achievements—the high school transcript remains critical.

Students can take comfort in the fact that their high school transcript, which reflects their consistent academic performance, is highly valued in the admissions process. This reassurance can help them make decisions about applying to test-optional schools.

This comprehensive approach to understanding and navigating test-optional policies can empower students by giving them a sense of control and direction.

They should be able to make informed decisions that align with their academic and personal strengths, which maximize their chances of college admissions success.

Free download on Conquering Test Anxiety for College Planning.


Special thanks to Tim Martin for writing this blog post.

Tim is a higher education professional who has been assisting students and parents for over 30 years. He believes that with guidance and planning, college admission can be a pleasant experience.

Tim obtained his Bachelor of Arts in History from Eckerd College and his Master of Science in Higher Education Administration from Florida State University. He has worked in various roles at both selective and open-access institutions, including Furman University, Centenary College of Louisiana, Greenville Technical College, Florida State College of Jacksonville, and Trident Technical College.

His passion lies in helping students identify the right collegiate community for them and flourish in their educational journey.