- Admission Process
"Test Optional" is a trend in college admission that is gaining more attention. We are grateful to have Abi Perdue Moore from Ball State University share insight on how institutions that consider themselves test optional evaluate an admission application.
For a college applicant, the materials submitted to an institution are obviously important. With the time and effort individuals and institutions put into the preparation for and evaluation of standardized test scores such as the SAT and ACT, it would seem to be one of the more important elements of an application. However, many higher education institutions have chosen to make this requirement optional. Navigating the decision to submit or omit test scores can add uncertainty to the process of submitting an application without proper guidance.
As an admissions counselor at an institution that has recently moved to test-optional admissions, my first piece of advice is to put the time and effort into practicing for a standardized test. Many schools—ours included—accept both the SAT and ACT and will create a superscore based on the highest subsection scores. It is only with the best possible score that you can make a sound decision about submitting.
Secondly, pay attention to the average GPA and test scores for the school and/or program to which you apply. If you are at or above these averages, test score submission can show additional competency in core subjects. If you find that your GPA is lower than the averages published by an institution, higher test scores can add weight to your application.
The decision to omit test scores may be beneficial if high school performance is excellent and test scores do not correspond to this high performance. Scholarship calculators add another level of assistance; if a college allows you to calculate your eligibility for merit-based awards, take advantage of this tool before making a decision.
Adopting test-optional admissions policy does not indicate an apathy towards standardized test scores, but rather a prioritization of access for all students. Both the SAT and ACT report consistently higher scores for white, male test takers. This does not mean that students who do not identify in this way are unable to score highly but that the test loses credibility as an impartial marker for college preparedness.
Ball State University found that high school GPA was the highest predictor of college success regarding retention and graduation; standardized test scores did not have near the same level of reliability in this prediction. We are much more concerned as admissions officers with the rigor and performance shown throughout years of study than with performance in a single-sitting exam.
Finally, the most important element of compiling a college application is taking advantage of the resources you have available. Guidance counselors and admissions officers are prepared to talk through your application and provide the best source of advice. Building a relationship with an admissions representative can give you confidence in moving through the application process and ensure that you are making informed decisions throughout your college search.