11 months ago
Admissions Advice

Test Optional Question..

I am probably going test optional when I go for ivy league schools. Is there any way if I can know if this hurts my application?

In other words, I know that other aspects of my application will have to be stronger. Is this accounted for when CollegeVine calculates my chances?


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1 answer

11 months ago

Submitting a high test score can only help you but not hurt you.

Submitting no test score will not hurt you but if you are competing against another applicant or two who have high test scores and everything else looks like apples to apple to the admissions officer, then they may or may not pick the applicant with the high test score because it is just 1 more data point that supports someone's high achievements.

I struggled and worked extremely hard to achieve a 99%+ ACT score even though I knew this admissions cycle all Ivy League schools were test-optional. I proudly submitted my score to Columbia U. ED and got accepted. Honestly, they do not tell you whether your high test score factored into their decision to accept me so I don't know if my high achievements without the test score were a "shoe-in" to Columbia or whether my test score helped me inform them to pick me over someone else. But in my case alone, I knew that I didn't want to chance it and possibly lose out on being accepted or being deferred and being re-evaluated against a much broader and larger RD pool of applicants.

When I ran the CV Chancing engine for Columbia I got like 37-48% Hard Target with the test score and without the test score so I have to imagine that it didn't factor any standardized test scores in the most recent chancing calculations. And I also ran my chancing calc against all the Ivy schools and they were all in that same range except for Cornell at 44-59% and Harvard 30-44%.

What I learned from evaluating all the Ivy applications is that they are all uniquely different. For sure the Harvard one is the most elusive one because there is only 2 short answer essay question and 1 supplemental essay which has like 10 prompts. Most of what they evaluate you on are base on their own proprietary scorecard that ranks everything from Athleticism to Intellectual curiousity. At Columbia, they wanted to know in detail the list of books, journals, media, vlogs, blogs I read and subscribe to and wanted to know what I wanted to study and major in and how I would contribute to the campus. At Brown, they cared less about what I wanted to study and wanted to know whether I fit their open curriculum format, what I thought about peer learning and community, and wanted a deep dive into one of my ECs. At Princeton, they wanted evidence of my writing ability and required a graded English paper.

If you are applying to an IVY be sure you have all your ducks lined in a row and you can check off all the boxes. Your ability to represent and advocate for yourself using your own voice and expression is paramount to getting your application noticed. So make the best use of your HS experience to become a better writer, a better speaker, and a better person. I think one common theme I noticed with admits is that Ivys want smart kids who want to make the world a better place. Being smart is a given, you have to use your gifts, talents, and voice for some higher purpose beyond an intellectual pursuit or career purpose. There are many excellent colleges that can teach students how to be good at math, physics, or be an engineer. Ivys expect more from their cohorts. For instance, I chose Columbia because of the rigorous core curriculum. I knew that everyone there regardless of their major has to take the core which is a challenging academic journey. That means everyone that leaves Columbia knows how to think for themselves and take a position and can navigate through complex questions about ethics, philosophy, art, literature, etc. For some, that is a burden or a roadblock for them to get to their "brass ring" and apply to Med School. But for me, it's the journey of learning that's important not trying to graduate as soon as possible and have all my 30 college credits and 9 APs count toward my degree. That is secondary.

I hope this was informative and helpful.


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