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β€’ 10/23/2020 at 05:54AM

I'm wondering if I should submit my ACT score or go test optional for certain schools like Dartmouth and Cornell?

I just got my ACT scores back this week and got a 33. I was disappointed and was hoping for a 34/35. I am applying early to either Dartmouth or Cornell and was curious if I should go test-optional or submit my 33, which is on the bubble for those schools. I have a 4.0+ and strong extracurriculars. Thoughts?

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2 answers

β€’ 10/24/2020 at 12:38AM[edited]

@JulieJ, for what it's worth, my son is in a similar situation. His college counselor offers similar advice and ask him to hold back SAT reporting for schools where his score lies in the lower half of the mid-50% range. The reasoning is slightly different though. The counselor predicts the (relatively) low scorers would likely choose not reporting, so the range for this year reported score is likely higher. Since my son has an overall strong profile sans SAT score, the counselor prefers him not having the SAT score to tarnish an otherwise strong application.

I think at the end no one really knows how things work out in this bizarre year. The college counselor claims that every admission officer she spoke with insists "optional" means "optional". On the other hand, you have Brown and Columbia composing a 200 word statement that further confuses people. After all, 1600 SAT/36 ACT does not guarantee admission. I think we just have to go with the gut and chooses the way we are most comfortable with.

Accepted Answer
[🎀 AUTHOR]@JulieJ10/24/2020 at 01:17AM

Thank you so much for this response! It is really hard to try to second guess these schools and what they mean by test optional. They do say "it is not a gimmick" but if someone has submitted a score, versus not, all else being equal, I assume they take the student with the submitted test score. But, if you didn't have access to a test center, like many students, they can't penalize you. So, how do the schools know whether you didn't test well or didn't have access? Hard to say.

β€’ 10/23/2020 at 07:25AM


My recommendation is that you submit the 33 Composite score which is an excellent score.

I looked at the Dartmouth 2019-2020 Common data set and their 50% middle was 32 to 35 or 33.5 avg.

Cornell's 2018-2019 was also 32 to 35 or 33.5 avg.

Keep in mind that Cornell's stats were softer for the Class of 2024 and they opted or refused to submit a common data set for last year. If such an animal existed I think it would be 31-34 because a.) they had to go to the waitlist to fill many seats and b.) their admit rate crept up to what people think is like 12.3 to 12.6% from 10.6%, that's a big hit. It was less problematic at Dartmouth but their admit rate crept up .9 from 7.9% to 8.8% so I think their stats were flat like 32/35. But this year both schools could very well be posting similar stats but keep in mind that 1/3 or more will not submit a test score and that means there will be implied ACT inflation on the next set of CDS results.

You should be proud that you have a 33 score to submit. There is nothing wrong at all to have a 33 and apply to all the Ivies for that matter.

Good luck with your decision, even though I think Dartmouth is ever so slightly more interesting than being in Ithaca.

[🎀 AUTHOR]@JulieJ10/23/2020 at 03:49PM

Thank you so much for your views! Our college counselor told us otherwise, so I am very torn. His view was that Dartmouth's bottom end of the range is primarily first gen/diversity and possibly recruited athletes (sorry to generalize) and I am not in any of those buckets. Hence, the expectation given our zip code is that I should be on the top end of that range and I shouldn't submit the score. Frustrating. I do appreciate your views - very helpful.

[🎀 AUTHOR]@JulieJ10/23/2020 at 05:03PM

BTW, I agree about Hanover v. Ithaca!

@CameronBameron10/23/2020 at 06:45PM

I've been researching both schools and applying to all the Ivys. Until last month I had a 33 like you and felt confident about applying to Harvard, Yale and Princeton because all the Ivy's don't differentiate between a 33 and 36. (according to the Harvard lawsuit documents). Ithaca has a lovely campus but it's on a huge hilltop and even the quad is wonky. If you walk downtown it'll take you 10-15 minutes but 30-35 on the way back because it's all hills. Dartmouth is flat.

@CameronBameron10/23/2020 at 06:50PM

Personally I like the "chill, collaborative vibe" at Dartmouth versus the large impersonal campus of Cornell. I also think the Greek system is more inclusive at Dartmouth, with not so many traditional hazing houses. Smaller Harkness style classes and more accessible resources are why I put Darmouth even above UPenn for me and Cornell last. Dartmouth has more of a boarding school vibe which works for me.

[🎀 AUTHOR]@JulieJ10/23/2020 at 06:51PM

Thanks, Cameron. Definitely leaning Dartmouth. I like the rural nature of both but you rightly point out the hills and the integration of the town of Hanover into the campus at Dartmouth. I am a skier so Dartmouth is likely my choice! Just hoping my 33 isn't a fatal flaw. Good luck to you as well!