Lousy SAT Score? Don't Despair

I’ve been helping the college counselor at my son’s San Diego high school with an overwhelming task that he faces every fall:  getting all the seniors ready to apply for college. Herding cats is the image that comes to mind when I contemplate how difficult his responsibility is.

A lot of the teenagers who have asked me for advice have earned above average grades, but crummy SAT scores. In the past, the options for these kids would have been much smaller. Today, however, there are 815 colleges and universities which have gone SAT and ACT optional.

So what does this mean? These test-optional schools no longer require applicants to submit ACT or SAT results to be considered for admission. Whether or not a student submits scores should not impact his or her financial aid package and most of these schools also seem to award merit scholarships without seeing test results.

I’d argue that colleges possess noble reasons for choosing the test-optional  path, as well as less savory motivations. You can learn about the ugly underbelly of the test-optional trend in an article that I wrote this summer for The New York Times entitled, The Other Side of Test Optional.

The kids I’m talking with, however, don’t care about a school’s motivations. They just want to know if they’ve got a chance at some wonderful schools despite crummy SAT scores. I’ve been relieved to tell some of these teenagers that I think they do.

By the way, it’s hardly just obscure schools that have jumped on the test-optional bandwagon. Participating schools include Mount Holyoke, Middlebury, Union, Pitzer, Bates, Wake Forest and the University of Texas, Austin. In fact about a third of the top 100 liberal arts colleges have instituted test-optional policies.

You can find the list of all the test-optional schools at FairTest.org.

Further Reading:

Studying for the SAT: Is It Worth It?

Comparing ACT and SAT Test Scores

The Dirty Secret Behind the ACT and SAT Tests

Great Reading Lists for Teenagers

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