Should I Take a Standardized Test for College? Required or Not, Here’s Why You Should Take the ACT or SAT.
While standardized testing in the United States can be viewed as either a rite of passage into higher education or an outdated practice mired in controversy, the coronavirus pandemic has added yet another layer of complexity and uncertainty to the future of the ACT and SAT. In the wake of testing cancellations, logistical pivots, and changes to the college application process, many students wonder whether taking the ACT or SAT is worth it. Do scores still matter, especially in an environment of increased test-optional colleges and universities?
As you decide whether to take the ACT or SAT, here are some key points to consider:
1. Some schools might not be test-optional forever.
Since the coronavirus pandemic began wreaking logistical havoc on the standardized test-taking process in 2020, the “test-optional” movement has gained unprecedented steam. If a school is test-optional, this means that the applicant decides whether or not to submit ACT or SAT scores. According to HigherEd Dive, at least 1,700 higher education institutions are not requiring students to submit SAT and ACT scores when they apply for admission for fall 2023. Some schools do not take test scores into account at all, even if they are submitted. In April 2022, FairTest.org identified 84 schools with “test-blind,” “test-free,” or “score-free” admissions policies in effect for Fall 2022.
While some schools implemented test-optional admissions even before the pandemic as a means of increasing fairness and attracting a more diverse applicant pool, the widespread pandemic trend toward test-optional admissions is not necessarily here to stay. For instance, HigherEd Dive reports that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Georgetown University have returned to pre-pandemic policies, calling for applicants to submit standardized test scores during the 2023-2024 admissions cycle. With many students opting to sit a test 3 or 4 times in order to achieve an ideal score, it may be worthwhile to prepare for and take the ACT or SAT before narrowing down your college search to specific schools. If your dream school decides to reinstate standardized test scores as a required component of applications, you will want to be prepared!
2. Standardized test scores provide another data point.
Students go to great lengths to craft the most competitive college application possible, reaching beyond grade point averages to extracurricular activities, letters of recommendation, community service, and the list continues. In many cases, the possibility of applying without submitting standardized test scores has prompted students to complete more applications and to apply to more selective schools. In arguably the most competitive college admissions landscape ever, a solid ACT or SAT score may help you stand out by providing an additional data point that can enhance your application or compensate for a weaker area.
“What if I’m not good at standardized tests?” students may ask. While any test is only one data point that measures specific skills, sitting the ACT or SAT offers the potential to boost your college applications without any risk of harming your chances; it is important to note that colleges will not receive your test scores unless you choose to send them. If you take the test and feel that your score will not enhance your application, you can opt not to send your scores to test-optional schools. If you do well, however, you will be ready to share your scores with your target schools. You never know how you will do until you try!
3. Standardized test scores can help you earn scholarships.
As many schools have opted for test-optional admissions, guaranteed and merit scholarships are sometimes based on GPA or other factors instead of standardized test scores. While many colleges and universities with a test-optional admissions policy will consider students for merit scholarships based on a holistic view of the other areas of the application, some recommend or require that merit scholarship hopefuls submit their scores. As noted by College Countdown, it is possible that these schools “may reserve automatic or higher-level scholarship consideration for students submitting testing.”
Standardized test scores can equal thousands of dollars in scholarships. Beyond checking the policies of the specific schools that most interest you, planning to take a standardized test can position you to produce the most competitive application possible, even if schools alter their policies or you discover a new school of interest in the eleventh hour!
Beyond the link between standardized tests and scholarships, researching both merit and need-based scholarships is a key part of the financial planning process as you prepare for college. From partial scholarships to full rides, take advantage of the many opportunities available to win money for your education. Websites such as FastWeb and FinAid can be productive starting points in your scholarship search. As a word of caution, be wary of websites or services that charge a fee to apply for a scholarship. Most legitimate scholarships will not include an application fee, and legitimate organizations will never promise a scholarship in exchange for payment!
4. Preparing for the ACT or SAT cultivates a valuable skillset.
Conquering the ACT or SAT involves more than content review; it requires practice, determination, and a healthy dose of strategy. These are all skills that apply beyond test day, preparing students both for college and for adult life.
The same abilities that students cultivate while preparing for a standardized test can ease the transition to higher level studies. From critical thinking, to discipline, to time management, the experience of preparing for and taking a standardized test flexes many muscles that create valuable habits. Additionally, students who perform well on the ACT or SAT tend to exhibit characteristics that also identify successful college students. From reading and processing information quickly, to strong information recall, to a robust vocabulary, to solving complex puzzles, the skills you develop while preparing for the ACT or SAT will benefit you down the road.
If taking the ACT or SAT is right for you, iLearn Academy can help you prepare for your test of choice. Through individualized learning during one-on-one, small group, or large group instruction, our experienced teachers can help you achieve your target score. To learn more, email us at firstname.lastname@example.org, call us at (847) 834-0791, or fill out our online request form here. In the meantime, check out our ACT and SAT test prep program offerings: http://www.ilearnacademy.net/testpreptutoring.html
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