High school students do a lot of impressive things, but I’ve yet to see one pull a rabbit out of a magic hat. That includes materializing SAT and ACT tests out of thin air with most test centers closed these days. For some reason, though, many stressed-out students are still under the impression that they need standardized test scores to apply to every college! Lean in closer, cause I’m about to make your day year:
It isn’t true! Now, look into that magician’s hat again, cause it’s lined with silver . . .
For some years now an increasing number of colleges have been going “test-optional.” Simply, that means that you only need to submit a score if you want to, or if it’s required under certain conditions (like not meeting a minimal GPA, for example). In general, if no conditions are required, and you choose to keep your scores a secret, standardized test-optional colleges* will NOT penalize you for not submitting them! (Please reread that last sentence; I know it sounds too good to be true.) In fact, during this pandemic most colleges aren’t requesting standardized test scores at all, because they know that test centers are largely closed! What does this mean for you?!
To begin, you might be able to target more selective colleges than you might have been able to do pre-pandemic, especially if any previous test scores weren’t on the same level as your grades. Keep in mind that selective colleges also look closely at your extra-curricular activities, though. Hopefully, you’ve already participated meaningfully in several activities. Now, with so many sports and clubs being cancelled, you must think creatively! Maybe you can no longer volunteer at the local senior center, but what else do you do for your community? Think broadly! Also, colleges are likely going to look even harder at your essay and other written responses to specific prompts. Your writings are where your racehorse separates from the pack. Take time to respond thoughtfully—and revise, revise, revise! As Truman Capote shared, “I’m all for the scissors. I believe more in the scissors than I do in the pencil.”
It’s tough to find many positives emerging from this pandemic, but for college bound students who don’t test well, the closure of testing centers is your silver lining in this troubled time.
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