Thanks to TP writer Jillian’s article on test optional schools, we know that schools that allow students to opt out of submitting their test scores exist–but what’s it like? Do they take you to a dark room and interrogate you for two hours? Are opt-outs secret red-flags to admissions officers that you must have gotten some terribly low score four times in a row and thus aren’t worthy of admission? Well, no. Here is my experience with opt-out schools, which is by no means comprehensive, but hopefully will show the TPers out there that the world of opt-outs can be nice and less stressful.
I was one of those odd kids who applied to 21 schools (yep, 21), but only one of them allowed me to opt-out of sending in my test scores. And it wasn’t one of my (many) safety schools, but Sewanee–the University of the South, one of my top two, and a place near and dear to my heart. I wanted the best chance at not only being accepted, but also receiving a top scholarship that would ensure my chances of attending. So you can be certain that there was no casual shrugging of the shoulders when I made this decision. I wanted Sewanee to receive the best portrait of me, and even though I was proud of my SAT scores, I felt that Sewanee’s opt-out option would aid me far better. So what did this entail?
Seeing as I’m not an international or homeschooled student, I was permitted to opt out of sending my test scores and instead was required to complete an evaluative interview with an admissions officer and submit a graded writing sample. These two requirements were why I was delighted to go test optional.
The Evaluative Interview
Seeing as Sewanee is all the way in Tennessee and I reside in dear old Texas, Sewanee was accommodating and set up what was supposed to be a Skype interview. I was delighted at the opportunity. It was my third or fourth college interview, and so I was at ease with the process by this point. There was a series of questions my admissions officer had to ask me. I don’t recall them exactly, but I know that they were about me, my personal work ethic, and feelings about Sewanee.
Through this interview, I was able to really show who I was and what I loved about Sewanee, which was important to me. I was also encouraged to ask any questions of my own, which I highly suggest, if for no other reason than the fact that my speech teacher always taught us to have a question to ask when an interviewer asks if you have a question. It shows interest and prior thoughtful consideration of the school. The whole process was easy, (although slightly nerve-wracking, but in the best way). If you’re comfortable with interviews and the school requires it for opting out, I would suggest considering it as an option.
The Graded Writing Sample
You may have noticed, but I’m a fan of writing (why else would I write for TP? Besides their awesomeness, of course) and so yes, I guarantee you I leaped at the chance to submit a graded writing sample. I had several recently well-received essays under my belt at this point–though it should be noted that the writing sample did not have to be an essay. I was so excited to have this opportunity to share one of my favorite essays that I both enjoyed writing and did well on with my admissions officers. I love sharing my writing, and the opportunity to share writing with the people who would determine my acceptance status was thrilling. The process was simple; scan the sample with the grade written on it by the teacher and a signature, and then submit it through CommonApp.org. Easy as pie, and fun too. If you’re a writer, and feel like you have a piece that was well-received and a better portrayal of who you are and your abilities, consider this as another pro to the opt out path!
Y’all are a sharp bunch. You’ve probably already switched to my bio and found out if I attended to Sewanee. Nope, Texas A&M Aggie here folks and I couldn’t be happier. But for the record, I totally got that big envelope.
I was delighted. I was also told that I qualified for their next round to be selected for their scholarship weekend. I wrote essays for that, and was accepted. And, in full disclosure, I ended up receiving one of their more prestigious scholarships. However, I decided not to attend because the scholarship still was not able to cover what I needed in order to attend Sewanee, and in the end, I chose not to enter the deep end of the debt pool. It’s all good, though. But I tell you this because I want it to be clear that while I cannot definitively say whether the opt-out way helped me get so far in the application process, I can assure you that it didn’t hurt me.
So, what about you? Is test optional the route for you? Look at the school(s) you’re applying to that provide it, and then determine how you feel about the alternative requirements. If you truly feel test optional is the best way for you, DO IT. It’s your college application process, and I don’t suggest doing it any other way than what’s best for you. Good luck, my Prospie friends!