How to approach test-optional admissions?

Almost daily we receive questions about test-optional admissions and the SAT/ACT. According to the National Association of College Admission Counselors webpage, 567 colleges and universities are now test optional or test flexible. But many students don’t understand what that means or how they should approach taking standardized tests. College admission officers have found that standardized tests don’t reflect a students potential. Wealthier students are able to take test prep courses and prepare in ways other students can not.

We still recommended to take the SAT or ACT. But you can now control who sees your score, when they see the score and which scores you want them to see. When you register for either or both tests, you are asked to list colleges you want to receive your score. Leave this blank. You do not want your score automatically sent to schools. Rather you want to see how you do first, then decide how to use it.

If you decide to apply using your test scores, most schools allow self-reported test scores. This means you can submit a copy of your score report or a screen shot from the test agency websites. Very few schools require you to send official scores from Collegeboard (SAT) or ACT.

Test-optional means the college does not require SAT or ACT scores for admission. Some schools ask on the application “do you want your scores used”. If you check yes, you will need to submit scores. If you check no, they should not use your scores. However, if you submit the scores or they are on your high school transcript, they may get seen by the person reading your application. It is hard to ignore something you have seen. If you don’t want to use scores, don’t send them.

Make sure you read each school’s policy on test scores. Some maybe test optional for admission but require them for scholarships. Some may require them if you have not taken certain coursework. Others may still require them for competitive majors or direct admit programs. If you have questions contact your admission counselor at each school.

To learn more about taking the SAT and registration dates visit and for information on the ACT visit While Coffman-Consulting does not provide test preparation, we are happy to discuss with you ways to strengthen your application.

Published by Kate Coffman

Kate has worked in admissions, financial aid, college and career readiness for over twenty years. She most recently served as the Vice President and Dean of Admissions and Financial Aid at Franklin College. Kate has also worked in admissions at Butler University and Indiana University. Kate has presented at numerous schools and conferences helping families, educators and those who work with youth understand how to be college and career ready, how to apply to college and how to afford their education.

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