SAT - Are Schools Really Evaluating Students Fairly Without It?

Have you used college board’s or any similar tools? They will only consider test scores and grades, but may give you an idea of what schools are fit, reach, etc. I’m only basing this on what you have listed, but even Purdue would be a reach. That’s not meant to be discouraging, but just realistic with what your applications should reflect. Even looking through the forums here to see who gets in to some schools in which you are interested based on stats, hooks, ECs is worthwhile.

All of my kids did better on the ACT than the SAT. Dd21 had a 3.9 UWGPA (1 B+ freshman year) and 33 ACT, 1470 SAT, did get into UMD but not Tulane. She played 3 seasons of varsity sports, part time job since 14, tutored, babysat, church peer leadership, officer in honor societies - days completely scheduled (like most of her siblings ). All had SAT/ACT tutors (1 -2 hours a week plus the practice tests) to force practice time, all of their scores improved significantly knowing how to take the tests.

First of all, he’s very likely to get into U Md. It’s a great school, it’s in-state and hence inexpensive for you.

For the other schools - I am curious as to where he is in relation to others in his class. I know that many schools no longer rank, but they do give the colleges an idea as to what percentile of the class his GPA puts him, approximately.

I don’t think it’s worth the time and effort for him to pursue a higher standardized test score. Assuming you can pay for it, I think he is sure to get into Fordham, and if he’s not going for their most competitive majors, he will also likely get into Purdue.

I think what you’re really asking is, will colleges hold it against students for applying test optional in an environment where every student surely has had the opportunity to take standardized tests several times? And I believe that answer is NO, they will not hold it against the student for applying test optional in the upcoming application cycle. Your son is lucky. He is perfectly positioned to take advantage of test optional. High GPA, high rigor, low standardized test score. Just don’t submit it to any school.

Look at the colleges on They are test optional and many have been for years, not just Covid years. See if anything there piques his interest.

University of Maryland is terrific. :crossed_fingers:for that one which would be a terrific choice.

I guess I missed his intended major…but what other Maryland schools are on your list?

Our D applied test optional to Lehigh, Davidson and BC from your son’s list and got into all of them. I would stop thinking about testing and have him start focusing on the rest of his application. D showed a lot of interest at all of the schools on her list. Went to multiple virtual events for each. I highly recommend doing that (especially as a TO candidate). I really think it helped. Our D had no hooks. Not URM or legacy. White student from competitive suburban public high school in Chicago.

Does your school have any history with the colleges on the list? Do kids with his GPA get in?


I think it is likely your son will be admitted to Purdue even without scores - his rigor and gpa are excellent (gpa at the upper end for their admits). One caveat is if he is going for CS - that would make it a reach. He is a strong candidate for Syracuse, Fordham and UMD as well. Please don’t be discouraged - college admissions at top ranked schools are very, very competitive these days – even with stellar SAT scores. It is no reflection on your son, his hard work, or anything besides the crazy landscape.


What is your son’s intended major? It could make a big difference in acceptance rates for schools that admit by major.

Which courses did he take HL? Which AP courses?

Agree that those scores will not help him. Is he willing/interested in studying over the summer and retaking the tests in the fall? The counselor may be putting a bit of pressure on him to study and re-take the tests so he can submit scores that reflect his ability.

Several of the schools on his list are reaches. You have to look at his unweighted GPA, not weighted when reviewing college admissions info. I know families that thought their kids 4.5 weighted would get them into top schools, but that HS weighted very heavily (one point for honors/AP) and were not as rigorous with AP classes (the kids that took BC calc were told to take the AB test because they would not pass BC). If other kids from his HS are getting into schools like Vanderbilt and BC with those grades, then that is great. If not, he needs to be realistic about his chances.

That being said, he has a decent shot at many of the schools on this list. Be sure he wants to go to his “likely” schools or expand the list a bit.

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The recommendation to show a lot of interest at the intended schools is a good one. Schools like to have high yield (meaning that a lot of their accepted applicants choose to go to them). This has led to “Tufts Syndrome”, which means that Tufts (and other schools) reject students whom they believe are just using them as a safety. I saw a stellar applicant from my son’s school get rejected by Tufts, obviously because he was such a strong applicant that they figured he’d get in someplace better, and go there. It was a cliff hanger, but it worked out for him - he got into Princeton. However, I think that if he had expressed a lot of interest in Tufts, he would have gotten in.

It’s not cheating to express so much interest to each school, that it appears to each school that they are your son’s first choice. Doing this will probably increase his odds of acceptance, so he should absolutely do it. After all, is it right that the schools should be adding “expressed interest” into the many, many facets of their “holistic” admissions process? He just needs to have done enough research about the school’s strengths to appear to be sincere. Plus he needs to be extra careful to avoid mixing them up! Sending an “I love you, Lehigh” letter by mistake to BU would be the kiss of death for BU admission!

BTW, is the family able to send him to any school he gets into, without financial aid? Or are you low income and low asset, and hence would qualify for a lot of financial aid? If you’re either of those, he will probably be able to go anywhere on his list that he gets in, since he’d probably get a decent fin aid package. But if you’re middle to upper middle class, then you really need to consider the cost of colleges. He’s in a good position, grade-wise, to get merit aid. I have no idea whether schools will view test-optional applicants without bias this year, when it comes to awarding merit aid. I do believe that this year, they did not hold it against those who applied test optional, when it came to awarding merit money.

Adding to say that kids from our high school do get into the colleges that D got into with her GPA so I think that’s a good strategy for the OP. Check to see if kids in his class with his rigor and grades get into the schools on his list. At our high school, all students with D’s GPA scored at least a 1450 before Covid hit. She was hovering in the high 1300s so we didn’t send. She took so many tests, both ACT and SAT and couldn’t break that ceiling. It was such a waste of time. You do not need the tests if the rest of the app is competitive and the high school has a history of students being admitted with similar academics. Work on those essays though and make sure to choose recommenders who know your son well. I know D’s recommendations helped. In fact, one college even quoted part of one of her recommendations back to her when they handwrote a quote on the hard copy of her acceptance letter.

Without scores, I do think everything else has to be on point and you have to show fit through essays and demonstrated interest.


D got large merit at LMU, Denver, Furman, and SCU going TO. At LMU, she got the largest merit available. I think it was $30k/year and direct entry into their honors program which is pretty small and competitive. So, at least last year, merit was given to TO candidates. I don’t think many of the schools on the OPs list give merit though.

My daughter got into Boston College test optional and her friend got into University of Maryland test optional. Test optional does work as long as you have a strong everything else -GPA, essay, extra curriculars etc… what major you put on the application is also a factor at many colleges. Majors such as engineering and computer science might prefer test scores-especially high test scores and high math scores.


My D got into 0 of her reach schools test optional. Her record without the test was exceptional. 4.0 UW, 11 APs, leadership in lots of ECs, varsity sports, national level awards, founded a charity. She had a 1490, but in some cases that was below the 25th percentile, so we didn’t submit it. Strangely though, she got into all of her fit schools with generous merit aid from most to include full rides to which we submitted test scores… Tulane , Wake Forest, W&L, W&M, Furman, UF.

My point is, the scores are still making an impact in some way, particularly if you are a majority applicant.

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William and Mary doesn’t really give much merit. Wake neither. Did she get merit at those two?

I don’t think it’s going to be easy to predict how TO will impact the next admission cycle when most students have had the opportunity to test. IMO, having all your tests cancelled is different than being able to sit for a test a couple of times and then choosing to go TO.


I agree with the comments about weighted gpa. It means very little except in the context of your own high school. Maybe some states standardize it, but many don’t, so you can’t even make assumptions by state. Our school is especially stingy with weight-- nothing for honors, and only 1/32 added for each AP. My daughter just graduated with a 4.0 UW and 13 APs, and that is a 4.41 weighted gpa for us. So obviously some places inflate the weighted gpa by a lot more than that and it’s not comparable at all. My point is that for the OP to know where her son stands she needs to know how that gpa relates to others in their high school.

Also, I agree with everyone else, don’t submit scores. There were tons of examples this year of kids with good grades and mediocre scores going TO and having much more success than they would have had in a normal year.


No, that list was just her fit schools list. Full ride from UF as do all NMFs, full tuition at UMiami which was also a match, $23k at Tulane, $35k at Furman.

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I disagree. I was so worried about this - AOs could easily find out that tests were readily available in our area. In fact, many kids from our high school applied to the same colleges as D with competitive scores and she got in and they did not. I think it depends on the college too. Some really do mean TO. They evaluate the app without a score. Period. They don’t consider what is not there. Some schools, like Davidson on the list, have already stated they will be TO for the next three years at least.

No one can predict what will happen to any one TO candidate. No two are the same. Maybe the OP can ask their high school how kids did who went TO to these colleges on the list this last year.

If she was NMF, then these schools knew she was a good test taker even if she didn’t submit SAT score. I don’t think your D’s not getting into reaches had to do with going TO if she reported that she was NMF.


I had to think it had to do more with demographics. Her application was just like thousands of other majority applicants at T20 schools without a test score. Ivies, Duke, etc have plenty of students with similar records submitting test scores that were much higher than hers and not getting in, so she certainly doesn’t feel slighted.