Applying with test scores vs. without

Now that there have been a few decisions made, has anyone noticed a pattern regarding applying test optional ?
I am starting to get a sense that test optional, didn’t mean test optional this year.
Have you gotten rejected or deferred without a score when you thought you should have gotten in ?
Have you gotten in with a lower score than the average ?
Or do you think schools really didn’t punish kids that didn’t have scores.

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I don’t think anyone knows outside of the admissions office yet and they are still figuring it out. If your kid has a 4.0 UGPA how will your kid be compared against a similar kid with a submitted 1100/1200/1300/1400/1500 SAT score? At what point will your SAT score be considered an advantage/disadvantage? I’m sure it will depend on the institution but everything thing I’ve read is if you think it will help your application submit otherwise don’t. College counselors in our area have determined that to mean if you have scores in the top 50 percent of accepted/ enrolled students submit. Not sure if admissions officers will use the same rationale.

My S is 4 for 4 on acceptances all WITH scores. His SAT is mid 1200s, so we looked at each school’s mid 50% range (25%-75%). If his score fell anywhere above the 25th percentile, he submitted the score. If his score was below, we left it out. He still has to hear from schools with higher 50% ranges. We did not use the schools ‘average’ score as a guide.

He received generous merit awards from two schools so far (St. Joseph’s U and Catholic U). The two remaining schools have yet to award merit, if any (Penn State and U Delaware).

I think some schools appreciate when you send the score, especially if it falls within their 50% range. The score may not be additive to the overall application, but I think it validates your story.

Anyway, I may change my thoughts after we hear from more competitive schools.


That’s what we are told, but I am not sure it’s true. My child was at the average grades, tons of extras and leadership and was deferred from ED school. I just want an honest answer, but we may only get it anonymously and it probably varies with each school.

I too am curious. Mine has been accepted to 9 so far. Out of those 9 she didn’t submit scores to 7 of them. Out of those 7 she got into without scores she has been given presidential scholarships to 3 schools, and then the other schools haven’t released merit yet. Out of the 2 schools she submitted scores to, one has given her a very generous scholarship and the other she hasn’t heard from yet. She’s waiting to hear from her number 1 today and went in test optional. I am very nervous if “test optional” really means that.


I can’t remember any specifics but I did see few people on the Northeastern 2021 ED thread get accepted without scores

I would have your kid ask their HS GC to reach out to the college AO to find out some additional information about the deferral. Maybe the school wants to see good first semester grades, for example. Your kid should definitely send a LOCI, directly to their AO…I would wait until there is something else to report with that, for example, good S1 grades.

I only have one data point but my teen was accepted ED after submitting an SAT at the lower end of the middle 50%. I’m intrigued at the claim being made by AOs that not sending doesn’t hurt you because we know information has value.

Exactly my concern… like what are you basing it off of if you don’t look at those. Just transcripts? Activities, leadership, service? Fact is it takes longer to look at all of that and harder to make a decision based on all of that in a timely matter needed for EA.

It’s hard to draw a firm conclusion from an individual experience, but I’m getting the sense that kids that did submit scores (solid scores) might have gotten more generous merit aid. My daughter did not submit scores, and has had no trouble getting admitted (3.73UW, 4.3W + solid extracurriculars, 10 APs, Dual Enrollment senior year), but seems to be getting less merit than comparable kids WITH scores. Totally anecdotal…

D admitted to Santa Clara yesterday test optional. High GPA and rigor, solid ECs with leadership. Also admitted from her high school was a student very very similar to her in ECs with a little bit higher GPA and a high ACT which she reported. This tells me that, at least in this case, it was ok for D to go TO. They didn’t take that other student over her. We live in Illinois and AOs probably know that the large percentage of students got at least one shot at the SAT since it’s mandatory for graduation and schools hosted it this fall even if they were not having school in person this year. Also, this other student applying sent an ACT.

So, SCU did not say “well D obviously could have gotten a test and must have take one or more and didn’t like her score”. They just used what they had in her app to make the decision.

This all being said, I know SCU admits 49% and is not highly selective. D does know two other students from her school who were deferred, though, and they also have good grades. We aren’t sure if they sent scores.


Well mine got into a school without scores and got merit yesterday. Meanwhile friends with equal gpa but submitted scores that may have been in the low range for that school were deferred. So in this case it seemed to be a good choice to go test optional.


It likely helped my S because his grades are just above average at best (APs but lots of Bs in core subjects) no thanks to his ADHD, however, he is a very good standardized test taker so we suggested he prepare and take the ACT because we knew that given the chance, most kids would opt out of taking it. He scored a combined 35 and was accepted to Wayne State with a full ride (we’re out-of-state so this is significant). So here’s the problem for many parents considering test scores: when it is optional, the only kids that take it are the ones who know they will ace it. Pure conjecture on my part, but this is what it feels like when I spoke to other parents who’s kids elected the SAT/ACT. Now the curve is much higher than before because the weaker test takers are nowhere to be found. My suggestion based on statistics and human nature: do NOT take the test unless your mock tests indicate you’ll be in the top %. Standardized tests are curved after all.

accidentally applied with scores before I actually recieved my score because I forgot to uncheck the box on the Common App wehn I was applying ED to Columbia. Thankfully it worked out though

My D had 1 sitting before COVID cancelled everything. 1450 with a large split. She applied to 6 schools and submitted her score to all but one. So far she has two rejections (including the TO app) and 2 accepts (one with large merit). Two more coming in later this month. What do I think this means? I think GREAT scores are still helpful (1500+ or >75%). This year and this year only, I think most schools gave TO apps a fair shot. Too many simply didn’t have access to testing. Even if schools remain TO for the long haul, I am skeptical that it will mean TO for anyone, but will be used to increase the diversity of classes without impacting published test scores and thus rankings. Now, looking at this years test blind schools are very interesting. Complete random crapshoot. GPAs aren’t comparable across the broad range of schools and classes. I think test blind schools are screwed if they don’t figure out some leveled out way to differentiate students.

It’s hard to interpret your D’s results without knowing the schools and more about her apps. You also have to consider how her high school does with those schools. Our D went TO to all schools - safety, match and reach. I’ll be sure to update here when she’s done!

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Our school hardly has any students even apply outside the UC and Cal State system and a few CA privates. Certainly not enough to have a “track record.” She was rejected ED1 from a reach that should have been at least a deferral (she’s right in the middle 50% and an ideal fit), Rejected ED2 from a reach that she should’t have applied to at all (rushed and overly emotional after the ED1 decision). Accepted to an RD reach (will attend). Accepted EA with merit to her safety. Two matches still outstanding. It was ED2 that she tried TO.

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Multi causality is the big word in AP Comparative Government and I think it applies here too, a lot. One of my close friends didn’t send in his 1510 to Harvard, very qualified in other categories and was accepted. I think we’ll have a better picture of how optional test optional really is in April. I submitted my 1500 to ever school (even when it was below the median 50% for accepted students from my school) just because I don’t know how much I trust the word ‘optional’ from an admissions office.

how do you calculate what mid 50% range (25%-75%) is for a school? is this from common data set or naviance or both? Thanks

It is in section C9 of the Common Data Set. (I would definitely not rely on Naviance for this.)

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