2 years ago
Admissions Advice

What do colleges use to admit students with no SAT/ACT scores

What bases do universities use to accept students with no SAT/ACT scores and and does it lower your chances of getting accepted?


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2 answers

Accepted Answer
2 years ago[edited]

Hi @SarahSarah,

Thanks for your question. This is a timely topic many students are thinking about so I'll do my best to answer your question.

I'm an incoming Freshman at Columbia U., not a College Admissions professional nor an HS Counselor or someone who has an agenda so take my comments from a lens of just trying to tell it straight and help younger students.

When you apply to colleges that are not TEST BLIND (UC schools, CalState schools, Caltech), you are forcing them to pay greater attention to the information that you have provided in your Common App with more scrutiny. Why is this? I believe high test scores help take some doubt out of the admissions officers whether the applicant has met some arbitrary bar for meeting some academic standard. Some would argue that the SAT or ACT are not intelligence tests nor do they show evidence of academic proficiency but then I would argue if they are not either, why are they so darn difficult to master and get a high score on them?

MIT's dean of admission, Stuart Schmill would 2nd the notion and argue for the SAT/ACT. In fact, MIT is one of the first elite colleges to now make it a requirement again. Here is his argument, "Research conducted by the admissions office shows that the standardized tests are an important factor in assessing the academic preparation of applicants from all backgrounds. He says the standardized exams are most helpful for assisting the admissions office in identifying socioeconomically disadvantaged students who are well-prepared for MIT’s challenging education, but who don’t have the opportunity to take advanced coursework, participate in expensive enrichment programs, or otherwise enhance their college applications."

So what he is saying is that MIT thinks the SAT/ACT are indicators of future performance. Sort of like NFL Football recruits running the 40-yard distance during tryouts. Why 40 yards and not 30 yards or 60 yards right? But it is what it is. In addition, Schmill thinks the SAT/ACT is sort of a reliable proxy for those who don't have the opportunity to take APs, IBs, have impressive ECs like paid summer programs, or other enhancements (I'm guessing this could be evidence of intellectual vitality like internships, self-publishing research papers taking college courses.)

My take on the SAT/ACT is that it's a necessary evil that challenges every single high school student to get out of their comfort zone to grind, stress, and fight for every point to prove they have mastered how to take the test. And mastering how to take the test does require commitment, energy, and intelligence both emotional, mental, and physical. It's like Chess. The rules are the same for everyone but hardly anyone can play at a Grand Master level. But those that understand that this is a challenge also understand that it is a combination of time, dedication, flexibility, and patience that get you from a 1050 SAT/21 ACT to a 1530+ SAT/35+ ACT or a 99% percentile score. It's not an IQ test where you really don't have time to prep, you just do but sort of a hybrid IQ test, where you can prep for 10 hours or 500 hours, it's up to you but everyone gets 3 1/2 hours to complete the challenge as best as possible.

In conclusion, if you decide to apply test-optional, the only time it's not detrimental is if you have amazing grades, course rigor, intellectual vitality, ECs, Essays, Recommendations, and evidence of great personal character. If you have all those things, then having a high SAT/ACT doesn't really add much. But if you have less than perfect academic and ECs narratives, a less than perfect essay and so so recommendations, and no impressive spike activities, then you are submitting your common app from a position of weakness, like going into a battle with a patch over one eye. It's doable but the college admissions readers are going to scrutinize your application with a fine-toothed comb looking for any signs of weakness.

The last thing I want to mention is that I've spent 2 years studying the benefits of submitting versus not submitting by looking at all the Top 100 colleges and figuring out if there are higher admit rates for those who submit versus not. And unfortunately, it's true. Most T100 schools admit more SAT/ACT submitters than in proportion to those not submitting. So if UPenn gets for instance 63% compliance with submitting where 37% do not submit test scores, when the final tally is out 76% of UPenn Admits submitted test scores this means that only 24% or the 37% that didn't submit get admitted. So the "ding" is real regardless of the propaganda put out by all colleges that not submitting a score will not harm your chances of getting admitted into that school. This is a fallacy used to attract more applications because more applications mean lower acceptance rates which mean higher rankings which means more clout and prestige.

Good luck.

2 years ago

They look at GPA, course rigor, your essay, rec letters, you extracurricular activities with, they want to see if your a good fit for their school.

What are your chances of acceptance?
Your chance of acceptance
Duke University
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Your chancing factors
Unweighted GPA: 3.7
SAT: 720 math
| 800 verbal


Low accuracy (4 of 18 factors)

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