Since the SAT scores are being optional now, and apparently don't affect your chances of admission, is it okay if I don't take them because my school is not providing any help to do so? So, would it affect me if I don't take it, or will I be fine?
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This is a great question that all 10th and 11th graders need to pay attention to.
Just because colleges are "test-optional" doesn't mean they are "test-blind".
Test-optional means that if you submit a test score, colleges will take them into consideration but all of them will make the politically correct disclaimer that not submitting a test score will not hurt the evaluation of your application file because they are evaluating it on a "holistic" basis, using all the data points that you have submitted and explained through your essays and short answers, recommendations, and evidence of your achievements and honors.
Test-blind means that if you submit a test score, colleges will not consider them. Keep in mind that of the 4300 colleges only these are test blind, only 0.02%. https://www.collegetransitions.com/dataverse/test-blind-colleges
On the plus side, this sounds great because it means that if you a great application without a test score, you can feel confident to apply to the best schools on your list, even your dream college.
On the negative side, everyone feels empowered and entitled to use this loophole to their advantage. As a result 99% of all the best public and private colleges, have experienced record numbers of applicants both for ED, EA, SCREA, and RD cycles. Ivys like Harvard and Columbia have 50%+ more applicants and lesser Ivys have 25+% more applicants. MIT had 60+% more applicants and UCLA and UC Berkeley had 28% more applications. Even lesser-known liberal arts colleges like Colgate had 102% more applications.
So what? This means that now admissions officers have a much harder task to figure out who to admit. It's twice as hard because there are more files to read, and there are more levels of cutting going on. When there are so many applicants to sort through, unless you have something important that differentiates you from the other 20 kids that want the same admit spot, you may face the hardest admissions cycles in the history of American colleges over the next 2 years as well as this year.
This year will go down as the toughest admissions cycle but I predict that next year will just as difficult as well as Class of 2027. This year is brutal but keep in mind that International competition is down significantly because of the Trump-era VISA restrictions which closed the door on many Chinese Nationals who would have gladly paid full price to attend T20 privates and the Best Public colleges. Now that the Biden admin. is relaxing student VISAs, in the next cycle, there will be more competition from Intl students on top of all the other students applying test-optional.
There are 2 sides to the coin. On a DEI (Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion) argument, one could say removing the SAT/ACT as a requirement creates a level playing field which is true. More marginalized students who in past cycles couldn't prepare competitively for standardized tests either financially or technologically can apply with confidence, and the early results of ED show that more minorities are being added to the Class of 2025 cohorts. On the other hand, this just makes it less predictable for all the other applicants who have the ability and means to study, go to "cram" schools, and take multiple tests in both formats.
My main argument is that if you have a 98% to 99%+ percentile aptitude and you can show evidence of that in a standardized test score which you submit when you apply to your colleges, that will help you more than hurt you. Admissions officials can confidently put you in the "consideration" pile knowing that the odds of you doing well on college grades are supported by your high test scores. After all, they are running a business, and if they can keep the retention rate super high and graduate a higher % of admits, their college rankings will go up. Also, for PR purposes it doesn't hurt to publish high stats year after year for incoming cohorts. Therefore, if you are thinking this through the lens of an admissions officer, wouldn't be more useful to have a high test score to submit if you are going against multiple applicants who have similar grades and ECs and excellent essays but no test scores. The caveat is that there are always amazing applicants who can affect and touch a reader with a remarkable essay on the first read where the AO says "wow, I have to advocate for this person, this is the best essay I've read all week." When that happens, well no test scores really matter anymore because that applicant has passed the threshold for something intangible like "quality of character".
Even though it is optional, you should see if you perform well in it. If you do, it can be a plus for your application if it is in the range of a school you applied to. For example, if you get a 1550, that will be great for like Cornell. While your school is not helping you in terms of taking the SAT, you can find resources online. Anyways, I think the hardest part about the SAT is preparing for it. You can simply register using your Collegeboard account and there are a lot of reddit posts and online blog posts about how to study for the SAT. Of course, if you choose not to do it, it is also fine but know that you are missing an opportunity that can give you another factor that differentiates you from others with similar GPAs and stuff. I could be wrong though so anyone can feel free to correct me.
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