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Test Optional

Dancer41Dancer41 Registered User Posts: 31 Junior Member
I posted a few months ago in a panic about my rising senior who had a shaky first pass at the ACT (24 overall with a 19 in Math). She has now retaken the test and improved her score to a 28 overall with a 25 in Math.

My question, which she will also pose to her GC in September, is how do you decide whether to submit scores to a test optional school? Is there a rule of thumb? While 28 could certainly be higher, will schools assume it's lower if not submitted? Hoping to get some feedback from the experieced parents here.

Test optional schools on her list are: Bates, American, Skidmore, Dickinson, Denison and Clark.

She finished the year with all As except a B+ in Honors Physics. Same story Freshman and Sophmore year - all As and 1 B+. Highest offered classes in English and history, honors in science, regular math. APUSH score - 5; AP English Lan score - 4

Thanks for any perspective.

Replies to: Test Optional

  • Erin's DadErin's Dad Super Moderator Posts: 34,338 Super Moderator
    Be above the average for the school.
  • happy1happy1 Registered User Posts: 18,167 Senior Member
    edited July 13
    ^^^Yes, that is the advice we heard from an admission officer at a test optional school when that question was posed directly. The admission officer said if a student's standardized test score is at or above the school's average then it is best to submit the score, if the student's standardized test score is below the school's average then it is better to apply test optional.

    So the answer may be different for different schools on the list.
  • MidwestmomofboysMidwestmomofboys Registered User Posts: 2,851 Senior Member
    My kid was test optional at a number of schools, and we heard not to submit if it was out of sync with rest of academic profile. My kid was lopsided -- strong gpa in most rigorous curriculum with very full EC commitments, but just not a good high stakes test taker -- practice scores great, actual test scores, not so much. The admissions staff we met with at test optional schools (including Bates, Dickinson, Conn Coll etc) seemed genuine that there are not negative inferences drawn for students who don't submit. Your daughter's gpa sounds quite strong, with good AP scores after junior year, so she can show academic success and potential without the test score.

    A 28 -- while FABULOUS improvement -- is not going to stand out at Bates, Skidmore, Dickinson and Denison (Denison's press releases for class of '21 showed 28-32 as the 25/75 range). I don't know American's range, but she should be good to submit at Clark, at least as I recall, they are in the 26-30 range, though perhaps that has increased since we were looking. If you were looking to add a school, a 28 should be solid for Wooster which is not test optional but similar to Dickinson and Denison in feel.

    Congrats to her, that is tremendous effort to improve so much!
  • twobugstwobugs Registered User Posts: 71 Junior Member
    Standardized tests are not D17's wheelhouse. Because her scores were below the average of those submitted, she did not supply scores to her test-optional schools but relied on her decent GPA, excellent essays, and recommendations that were presumably pretty good. She'll be off to her first choice school, a stellar LAC, in September.
  • DadTwoGirlsDadTwoGirls Registered User Posts: 2,629 Senior Member
    My daughter applied to only test optional schools. While intending to send her scores, in a couple of cases she actually got her acceptance before she got around to sending in scores. They emailed and asked her to send them in for purposes of deciding on a merit scholarship.

    I don't know whether the test optional schools that you mention have merit scholarships, and if so whether they need SAT or ACT scores. This is however something to consider.
  • AroundHereAroundHere Registered User Posts: 2,434 Senior Member
    If there's a college fair, it's OK to walk up to a booth and ask 'em straight up. "My kid got X, should she submit it?"
    You don't have to give your name and they won't remember you among the crowds anyway.

    Similarly a counselor can also call - "I have a student with..."
  • Dancer41Dancer41 Registered User Posts: 31 Junior Member
    Thanks for the quick and helpful responses. Looks like we have some research to do! This admissions process seems like such a tricky business - hard to believe a kid that submits a score, any score, would be penalized at a school where the scores are optional but guess we all have to play the game!
  • happy1happy1 Registered User Posts: 18,167 Senior Member
    This is my take on the reason -- Colleges want to keep up their average standardized test scores for accepted students at as high a level as possible as it benefits the schools in the prestige/ranking process. So the college doesn't want below average scores for accepted students to be submitted because they can bring down the overall school average

    You should be able to look at the common data set for each school and find out the averages fairly easily and of course the guidance counselor may have recommendations as well.
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 8,215 Senior Member
    Test optional really means it is optional to submit, with no negative inferences. However, often scores are needed for merit aid.
  • wisteria100wisteria100 Registered User Posts: 2,979 Senior Member
    At an info session at a test optional school, an admissions counselor said, if you think your test scores reflect who you are as a student, then submit them.
  • MidwestmomofboysMidwestmomofboys Registered User Posts: 2,851 Senior Member
    @compmom -- from our research -- Dickinson requires test scores for all but the lowest tier merit (which was $10k, I believe, 2 years ago). St Lawrence requires test scores for any merit. Denison does not require test scores for at least up to its 1/2 tuition awards.
  • EmpireappleEmpireapple Registered User Posts: 553 Member
    So test optional is great until you need merit money? So you either have to qualify for need-based assistance or have high test scores with your GPA? A high GPA with low test scores does nothing for you but get you in to a school you can't afford? ?????
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 8,215 Senior Member
    edited July 13
    Apparently not all schools require test scores for all merit awards. Also, I would not make assumptions about how a school might interpret scores, or what other factors might affect merit (special talent, history of service, etc.) I think it is probably a good idea to look into the details at each and every individual school....
  • peetjefivepeetjefive Registered User Posts: 4 New Member
    We found that some LACs will give merit +/- 30K without submitting scores. Our daughter had an excellent GPA and showed lots of interest. Ask each school specifically if the student is eligible for the highest merit award without scores. Some school websites are not clear on this so ask directly.
  • compmomcompmom Registered User Posts: 8,215 Senior Member
    Also a higher GPA and lower test scores relatively speaking shows a good work ethic. Since these schools are test optional or deemphasize scores, and have agreed to be on this list, I think it is safe to assume they recognize that not all good and hard-working students are good test-takers.

    Wishing you good luck in finding a good fit that works for your family with all this.
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