Is it time to kill the ACT and SAT?

It’s a valid question. But even as universities make temporary moves to be test-optional in light of current events, these tests still play a significant role in college admissions. Why is that?

Too many As.

According to the New York Times, half of high school students today graduate with an A- average. Colleges need a way to determine who to admit—and who to give those scholarship dollars to!

And that’s a big reason why the ACT and SAT are still important: scholarships.

So while many colleges have gone “test optional” in 2020, accepting students without a test score, these tests are still significant. Without an ACT or SAT score, students now can get into more colleges, including more selective colleges. These colleges get more applicants, improving their rankings and diversity. Some of these selective colleges have cited the pandemic for going test optional for one year or even three years, beginning with the high school class of 2021.

Why the ACT and SAT Matter at Test-Optional Colleges

Most private and most public colleges still offer scholarships based on test scores. A National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) study found that nearly four out of five colleges use standardized test scores as an eligibility criterion for merit aid.

For example, Iowa State costs $5,000 less per year for Iowa residents with a 30 on their ACT. University of Nebraska-Omaha tuition should be zero for Nebraska residents with a 30 on their ACT. For Arkansas residents, four 4-year Arkansas public colleges offer free tuition for an ACT score of 25 and five 2-year colleges offer free tuition for an ACT score of 23.

Test-optional colleges in 2020

When should you submit your scores?

So seniors this fall, who do not want to pay the full retail sticker price, should still prepare hard and get their maximum ACT or SAT score. Jumping that score remains the best paying job a high school student could have.

Further, most applicants historically have submitted a score to test-optional selective colleges. If your highest score is at or above the median for incoming students at a college, be sure to submit it because it increases the average score for incoming freshmen, giving you a competitive advantage in admissions. If you’re from an under-represented group, you might submit it even if it’s slightly below the median score for incoming freshmen.

Other Benefits of the ACT & SAT

An ACT score of 22 or higher should also waive most 2- and 4-year college applicants out of freshmen year remedial classes, the high school do-over classes that cost money, offer no college credit, and decrease the likelihood of college graduation.

Many colleges have gone test optional. Students willing to pay full price may deemphasize the ACT and SAT. Students with lower scores can withhold them and may now get accepted to these colleges that are selective. 

In 2018, a national research study titled “Defining Access: How Test-Optional Works” revealed that most students applying to so-called test-optional colleges submit their test scores, and those who did were more likely to be admitted. Additionally, test scores matter for those seeking merit-based scholarships, a competitive advantage in selective college admissions, or a freshman year with no remedial classes. 

Test scores matter for those seeking merit-based scholarships, a competitive advantage in selective college admissions, or a freshman year with no remedial classes.