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If I Opt Out of the SATs or ACTs What Are My College Options?

College entrance exams are a multimillion dollar industry that feeds the pockets of the companies that make them, as well as the tutors that help to prepare struggling students.  Recalling my own experience with college entrance exams like the SAT over 30 years ago, I would have never believed that they would still exist.  As we all know, powerful corporations tend to maintain their stronghold well after the downsides of their products are exposed.

What Are the Problems Associated with the SAT and the ACT?
  1. Reports suggest that college entrance exams are biased towards both gender and race. Studies have revealed females score higher in high school and college classes; however, males score better than females on the college entrance exams. In one study from the Education Testing Service, researchers suggest that boys typically score about 33 points higher on the SAT math section than female students, even though both genders received the same grades in the same college math classes. In addition, a new study in 2018 reports that tests can be an obstacle not just for students who don't test well but also for students from under-served and under-represented populations.
  2. Research suggests that the SAT and ACT tests do not always predict an applicant’s grades in college. Wasn't that the whole purpose of the assessments?  For example, a study on the ACT by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that the reading and science portions do not accurately predict a student’s outcome in college. 
  3. Students report them to be long and stressful. Bright students that have slow processing speeds may not show their true abilities, because they will not have time to complete the test.  In addition, when students experience clinical levels of anxiety over these tests, their scores are often deflated because extreme stress has a negative impact on cognitive performance.
What Are SAT and ACT Optional Colleges?
I'm happy to tell you that every year more and more colleges are not requiring college entrance exams in their applications.  Some colleges, like Hampshire College, will not accept these test scores.  Other colleges offer a test-optional admissions policy, which means that applicants can choose not to submit SAT or ACT scores. Application requirements vary from college to college, and you can usually find the information on each college's website.  There are a number of sites that offer a list of test-optional colleges.  One might think that these colleges are not as good, but I think you will be surprised!   CLICK HERE to see a 2018 list.

What Can I Do to Help My Students Who Opt Out of These Tests Get Into a Great College?
  1. Help them to improve their GPA.  Encourage them to get in all assignments, prepare for all tests, and talk to their teachers about any extra work they can do to improve their grades.
  2. Encourage rich involvement in extracurricular activities and community outreach.  Many colleges like to see that their applicants are "well rounded" and actively involved in helping others. 
  3. Help them to write an outstanding college essay.  Writing a well-written and memorable college essay can make a student stand out from other applicants.  Come read my blog on the 11 steps to writing an outstanding college essay.  You can learn more about my College Essay Workshop Materials
  4. Encourage a student who is applying to a fine arts college or art program to develop a portfolio of their work.
  5. Visit colleges.  Take campus tours, but also connect with admissions personnel.  If you can't visit the campus, then be sure to attend local college fairs, to write to the admissions office, and to sign up for college Facebook pages or other social media sites. 
  6. Go above and beyond.  Do all optional essays, elaborate on all extracurricular activities, and develop a rapport with one or two admissions personnel.
I hope you found this helpful!  If you have any questions, be sure to leave them below this post.  I'm always happy to help.

Cheers, Erica
Dr. Erica Warren, Learning Specialist & Educational Therapist

Dr. Erica Warren is the author, illustrator, and publisher of multisensory educational materials at Good Sensory Learning. She is also the director of Learning to Learn and Learning Specialist Courses.

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