Choosing between test optional and standardized tests can be stressful, so here are a few things to think about before making the decision.
Your Prospective Schools
Just as there are financial reaches there are academic reaches as well. Many schools are highly selective especially when it comes to standardized testing scores. Meaning if you don’t fall somewhere near or within the range of testing scores as most applicants who are accepted there’s a lower chance of receiving a yes from that school. This something you should consider before applying to colleges and choosing a testing route. Realistically, do you think you have enough time to get your scores up to the level required? If not are these schools test optional? If so, does this decrease your chances of receiving certain financial aid based on scores if you choose that route?
Are you a nervous test taker? Do you think standardized testing is a negative reflection of your true academic ability? Are you a good writer with a unique story to tell? Is there is anything about you that makes you stand out from other candidates? Now is your time to shine if you choose test optional. Though universities have test optional for many different reasons a good way to use the choice of test optional is to enroll more diverse students who typically are underrepresented and don’t have the scores needed to attend or don’t have access to test prep.
When schools look at test optional students they pay even more attention to the bigger picture than they do with standardized testing. Specifically your grades. They’ll look at how challenging the courses you took were, the grades you received in each, and overall gpa, etc. You’re academic transcript should show improvement in areas you struggled with and eagerness to go above and beyond. If you’re grades don’t show that you can perform academically at the level universities hope you are then test optional might not give them the extra assurance that you can follow through on your word in college.
Many students that fall in the category of being underrepresented are usually at a disadvantage when it comes to test prep which can be very expensive. If you don’t have parents that can afford to dish out on money for a private tutor or classes or even go to a private school that most likely has these resources available to students it’s harder to perform at the level of those who do.
You have to decide how dedicated you’re going to be to studying for these tests all the while trying to juggle the stress of junior or senior year. It has been proven that after taking the SAT more than two times the chances of your scores being higher actually decreases. Many students aren’t aware of this and spend meaningful time that could be used elsewhere on overworking themselves to receive scores that most likely aren’t going to happen. This is something to think about before submitting your scores to a school. Ask yourself, did you perform at the level you wanted to or needed to realistically be accepted into a school? Do you think you’re a stronger candidate for test optional than standardized testing?
Choosing standardized testing or test optional is a personal choice. Taking a practice test or even one real standardized test can give you a realistic view of where you stand. It sucks that at the end of the day you’re being judged by filling in a bubble, but you have the ability to change that. If test optional is right for you that in no way means you get the easy way out and working hard to get those perfect test scores isn’t pointless. In the end you should follow your gut and you’ll find senior year will be a little less stressful once you have it all figured out.