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Test-Optional - Most schools are - but which schools lean in?

Updated: May 23, 2023

So your test scores are right on the bubble of admitted students, and you have a transcript with curriculum rigor and good grades. How do you know if submitting scores is the right approach? Common questions include those asked below. If you are interested in taking a diagnostic SAT or ACT, register here.

  • My transcript is stronger than my test scores, but my scores are close. If I don't submit my scores, will admissions assume my test scores are much lower than they are?

  • How do I know if a school leans into test-optional students or they "really don't mean it."

Data is key. Schools have published admission data from the 2021-2022 application cycle. Data from last year's cycle won't be forthcoming for quite a while, so we will work with what we have.

  • Check out the school's Common Data Set for 2021-2022. See the University of Texas at Austin as an example.

  • Go to Section C9 to see enrolled freshman students who submitted SAT/ACT scores. It is important to understand that this data is not from admitted students, but we work with what we have.

  • Consider the range of enrolled students that submitted scores. For this UT Austin example, the range is from 56% to 82% of admitted students, with an average of 69%. With over half of the students submitting scores and possibly many more, we think the school likely leans toward strong test scores. Compare that to Virginia Tech, with a 48% average, and students may feel that a VA Tech test-optional application is a bit more friendly.

Of course, the strongest indicator of college readiness is curriculum rigor and a full academic schedule for all four years with mostly As and Bs. Standardized test scores supplement a strong high school body of work.

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