SAT or no SAT

We were having conversation with DD who is in Grade 11. She’s dragging her feet and feel like she doesn’t need to do SAT, her counselor says it’s not needed … but I know some of her friends in Grade 12 are still taking the upcoming exam.

What is the latest on this? I understand her reluctance, but we try to tell her too that if there are 2 students who are exactly the same but 1 is without, she may be at a disadvantage. Time is fleeting …

Realistically, applicants are never compared to otherwise identical applicants. Academics in particular often go through a complex internal processing where there are multiple routes to materially the same academic rating. And so really, at test optional schools it depends on whether the test score adds anything to the grades. If not, it truly may make no difference in the sense that adding the test score may make no difference to that internal academic rating.

So in our private HS, kids are mildly encouraged to at least try out a test earlier on to see how it goes. But if a student is on track to have the grades they need for the sorts of colleges they are targeting, then if they choose not to allocate time to tests, that is fine too.

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Is she aiming mainly for test-blind colleges?

If she takes the PSAT this fall, that is likely to be predictive of the SAT, so that can indicate whether it would be worth it for her to take the SAT.

Of course, there is also the ACT. Some students do better on one of these tests compared to the other.

In general, I’d take it. It can only help and not hurt - because if it’s no good you needn’t use it. On the other hand, the merit aid at some schools is vastly different with a score.

All that said - there are exceptions. At a UGA, UF, Purdue, for example, testing is required. At a UC, CSU, U Washington, some Cornell schools, they are test blind.

Look at the testing policies and merit scholarship policies of schools in consideration.

Ps if it’s about prep or not, she can take a practice or take the test cold and see. Maybe she’d do fine.

Best of luck.


Grade 11 has just started, so we don’t really know yet where to apply nor what major she’ll choose.

She is in IB, her HL courses at the moment is Chemistry, Economics and Design Tech.

I have a feeling, she’s afraid of getting a low score, thus her reluctance. She’s always been an honor roll student, so I assume if she really wants to and has the right motivation, she can do it. We never say she has to get perfect score or anything like that, we’re just worried that if she doesn’t prepare and score is needed, she will have limited choices.

If a score is needed, her choices will be limited without.

That’s not a ton of schools but some.

Most today are test optional.

At many top schools, less than 50% submit.

But at many schools, a score isn’t needed for admission but it might make the difference on scholarship amount.

That’s why I noted she should take it in most any circumstance, even if she doesn’t use it.

On few cases (Georgetown being one), must you submit it. In the vast majority of schools, taking it doesn’t mean she has to use it.

That’s why she should take it.

Thanks, I didn’t think of the scholarship part so we should encourage her to take it.

Don’t many states require it for graduation or Act? Our state does but there was a hold during the pandemic.

Nothing will replace a good score. You can’t unsee a good score. I do believe it helps in the overall package your student sends to the college.

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Can’t hurt to take.

Note , format will change to all digital in spring.

Reports are some find the digital format easier.

The CC at the school DS attended encourages students to test and they believe test scores are generally helpful. When they won’t be, they aren’t reported. I’m assuming your D will have SL scores at the end of this year. She can decide whether to report them as well.

My hunch is that strong students are helped by strong scores – it’s a data point from a different source that adds confirmation of strength.

Otoh, if she doesn’t have scores or doesn’t have good scores, she can apply without them.

The only downside is the time investment. The upside is that she may have scores that help paint a picture of a strong student and may be used for scholarships/merit.

  1. Grade 11 has just started. Many many high school juniors don’t take their first SAT or ACT test until spring of junior year.

  2. Grade 11 has just started. There is absolutely zero need for her to know where she is applying right now (although starting to look for options now is a good idea).

  3. Grade 11 has just started. She doesn’t need to know her college major in most cases until she actually is in college. And many many students change majors at least once.

I think your daughter isn’t dragging her feet. Let her enjoy the start of 11th grade, and by mid-year you can revisit the need for the SAT or ACT.

You might want to look at this link. You will see that there are now about 2000 colleges that are either test optional or test blind. Clearly there will be options for your student even if she doesn’t take the SAT or ACT.



If this is accurate 25 states do require some tests. But I still feel a good test score is advantageous. But agree has time later in the year to tackle this.


ACT was required for graduation in our last state.

OP - I’m also in the camp of having your D take the test, especially if she doesn’t know her intended major. Some of the engineering focused schools are going back to test mandatory.

It doesn’t have to be high stress though. Buy a prep book, do a practice exam once/week and then it is what it is. If she doesn’t do well, she can apply to a test optional school.

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With the caveat that plenty of kids take the PSAT blind and then prep for the SAT. I don’t believe endless hours of prepping with a private tutor is necessary, but some tips on approaching certain questions and familiarity always helps.

Personally, I don’t understand not even trying for something that can only help you. If access is an issue that’s ok, but to skip the test by choice is silly.

Call me cynical, but I don’t think tests are optional for everyone. I simply don’t believe that AOs think nothing of a lack of test for someone coming from our well regarded BS.

The thing is that it probably truelly doesn’t make a difference for that student. You don’t get in without a score and you don’t get in with a low score. (Note that I did not say “because” - but lacking that extra thumb on the scale doesn’t help anyone’s case).

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Illinois does for Sat and yes noticed engineering schools as well seem to be focused more on it

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An SAT or ACT is required in TN to graduate high school. For kids, that means a free test - extra opportunity.

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To me it’s also showing rigor or doing something above and beyond especially if their school doesn’t require it. Again, you can’t unsee a good score. If the score isn’t good then don’t send it it applies.

I would go with take the SAT and/or ACT. Most schools do not require you to submit the test score, so if it isn’t good, then go TO.

I am pro-testing because my kids do well on standardized tests - for two of my three, the test score was a stronger part of the college application than the transcript. While she should take a practice test to get a sense of her score, how has she historically done on standardized tests?

I have found that kids who have done well on standardized tests in the past typically do well on the SAT/ACT with little or no prep.

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Better to have a score and not need it than need it and not have it, generally.

In junior year, my kid did her AP tests in May, then sat for the ACT in July (as opposed to June). It gave my kid a bit of a breather between testing. Having finished junior year, it was a good time to do the ACT (as opposed to too early). If a re-do was needed, there was always September/October of Senior year (Hail Mary!). (Kid did not test the SAT.)

With all the stuff slamming kids in junior year, my goal was to limit the amount of testing tries. Space out the academics.

Kid was able to do it once. And can now focus on applications themselves.

For your kid, get your hands on a book with practice tests. Have her do one. See what she scores. Then go from there.