Updated: May 8, 2020
What does "test-optional" actually mean for students applying to college?
With college after college switching to “Test-Optional”, many students and parents are trying to consider whether or not they should even take the SAT/ACT this coming year. While colleges have said that applying without an SAT/ACT score will not hurt your application, they have not said that having a good SAT score will not help you.
Let me clarify that. If you were applying for a job and the application said that a suit and tie were “optional” wouldn’t you dust off that old suit and come in for the interview with the best chance of getting the job? After all, aren't many aspects of the college application optional? Your class choices were optional. Your essay topic was optional. Your extracurricular activities were optional. Your volunteer work and internships were all optional. The people admitting you to college are interested in seeing which options you chose when you had the chance to choose.
If you don’t take the test, you are taking a risk against other equal GPA’s and essays. If you do take the test, you will know that you put forth your strongest application and will not have to wonder if you could have had a stronger application. If colleges wanted to do away with the SAT, they would say “Please do not submit SAT or ACT scores. We will not look at them”. This position is called “test-blind”. A handful of smaller schools have chosen this option, but it remains quite uncommon. Be sure to see if your potential schools are test-optional or test-blind.
If you were applying for a job and the application said that a suit and tie were “optional” wouldn’t you dust off that old suit and show up for the interview with the best chance of getting the job?
Many scholarships and honors colleges still require you to submit competitive SAT scores. In some ways, this is actually one of the best times to take the SAT. You will have had plenty of time to prepare for it and far fewer other students will be submitting their scores this year so you will likely be considered for scholarships you would not have otherwise received.
The bottom line: The more “optional” the SAT becomes, the more of a deciding factor it could prove to be.