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Why Take the SAT/ACT If It's Optional?

Thanks to organizations like The National Center for Fair and Open Testing and folks like John Boeckenstedt, the test-optional movement in college admissions was growing long before the pandemic.

And now that schools were forced to go test-optional due to the pandemic, this movement is here to stay.

So if taking the SAT or ACT is optional, why do it? Applying to college is already overwhelming and stressful. Why add any more to your plate, especially since the SAT and ACT are mental marathons?

Consider these three highly compelling reasons to still take the SAT or ACT:

1) Test scores can influence admissions to selective schools: Even though we are not quite at the end of this current admissions cycle, early data shows that test scores are impacting college admissions to selective schools.

2) Good test scores can mean more merit-based financial aid: Historically, a good test score meant more merit-based financial aid and there is no reason to suggest that the future will be any different. A college counselor colleague of mine reminds me that "Every 100-point increase on the SAT can mean $10,000 more in aid." This may be a slight oversimplification since the amount of aid obviously depends on both the student's profile and the school under consideration. Nevertheless, the math doesn't lie: higher test scores means more merit-based aid opportunities.

3) Submission is optional, but you can still take the tests: For schools that remain test-optional, the option is for the student to submit a score. In other words, a student can still take the test and then, depending on the results, opt to submit a score. So you may as well take the test to see if the score is competitive. If the score is competitive, then be sure to submit. And if not, then simply don't.

In all, the test-optional movement benefits both students and colleges. Students can now take the test stress-free but they should still take the test. Even post-pandemic, more admissions offers and more financial aid will go to students with higher test scores.

So exercise your option! You have nothing to lose.

And if you need help preparing for test day and exploring all options, contact CROSSWALK, the Monterey Peninsula's local resource for academic tutoring and test prep.

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