Since the Pandemic, test optional admissions policies have become increasingly popular in the world of college admissions. The vast majority of colleges now have test optional or test blind policies. These policies allow applicants to decide whether or not to submit their standardized test scores (such as the SAT or ACT) as part of their college application. This can be a beneficial option for students who may not perform well on standardized tests, but excel in other areas such as GPA, extracurricular activities, or personal essays. There is, however, a major, unintended consequence of test optional admissions policies: They have resulted in selective colleges – and other popular schools – experiencing dramatic increases in applications. This in turn, has caused those colleges to be much more competitive.
Not requiring the SAT or ACT has made it easier for students who may not perform well on standardized tests to apply to colleges. These students may have previously been discouraged from applying to selective colleges due to their test scores, but test optional policies allow them to still be considered for admission based on their other strengths and accomplishments. This has led to an increase in the number of applications to selective colleges, as more students are able to apply without the burden of high test scores.
Test optional policies have also led to an increase in the number of diverse applicants to selective colleges. Standardized tests have been shown to disproportionately favor students from certain racial and socio-economic backgrounds, and test optional policies have helped to level the playing field for students from underrepresented groups. This has increased the diversity of the applicant pool at selective colleges, leading to a decrease in selectivity as more students are able to meet the admissions criteria.
Finally, test optional policies have also led to an increase in the number of applications from students who may not have otherwise applied to selective colleges. Some students may be hesitant to apply to selective colleges due to the perceived competitiveness of the admissions process, but test optional policies may make these schools seem more accessible and encourage more students to apply.
Test optional admissions policies have had a significant impact on the college admissions process, increasing the number of applications and decreasing selectivity at popular, selective colleges. This is one reason why it’s critical for students and families to look beyond the rankings and the brand name schools to find colleges that are a great fit for them. Doing so will increase admissions choices as well as scholarships. At The College Advisor of New York, we work with students to gain admission to selective colleges, while also helping them find “hidden gems,” so that every student has excellent options.