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SAT/ACT Scores: To Send or Not to Send?
“To be, or not to be,” that is the question, right? Perhaps, but if you’re in the process of applying to colleges, “To send, or not to send (your standardized test scores)?” may seem a little more applicable. And, with more and more schools going “test optional” nowadays, it can be difficult to decide whether or not to send your scores in. So, to make applying to colleges a little easier for you, we’ve compiled a quick list of things to consider when making that choice. Let’s get into it!
Also see: 10 tips to reduce test taking anxiety
What does “test optional” mean?
Before we get into anything else, we should probably first go over exactly what “test optional” means. Likely, during your college search, you’ve come across this term a few times. Perhaps you already have an idea of what it could mean. However, it never hurts to get a little clarification.
If a university claims they are “test optional,” applicants can send in their standardized (SAT or ACT) test scores for consideration with their application. However, they are not required to send in their standardized test scores. If scores are not sent, the school simply bases their admission decision off the rest of the application. Remember, the university will not look negatively upon students who choose to not submit test scores. They are “test optional” for a reason, so no need to worry about that.
Although some schools, including Wake Forest University, have had a test optional policy for quite a while now, some switched to test optional during the COVID-19 pandemic. For many colleges, this was done to accommodate students struggling during the pandemic. It also reduced capacity and social distancing standards at testing sites. It was therefore harder for many students to take the tests. Whether or not this will continue post-pandemic, however, remains to be seen.
So, you now know the basics of “test optional” schools. Perhaps, though, you’ve heard of another, similar term: “test blind.” What does this mean?
“Test optional” vs. “test blind”
While “test optional” schools will allow students to send in standardized test scores, “test blind” universities will not consider test scores for admission purposes. If you send standardized test scores to a test blind school, your scores have no impact on admission.
Thus, while it is unlikely that a “test blind” school would penalize you for sending in standardized test scores, we recommend not sending your scores. They will not be considered and it’d be a waste of money!
Related: How to improve your SAT score
Research which schools are test-optional
Before we finally get into what factors you should consider when sending in your standardized test scores, there’s one thing you must do before you make this decision. Remember, we forewarn that this may seem quite obvious, but it’s better safe than sorry.
Before you consider not sending standardized test scores to colleges, research and be 100% sure that those schools are test-optional. If a school turns out to not be test-optional and you don’t send in test scores, your application will be incomplete. Remember to do your research!
Top things to consider before you send a SAT/ACT score
By now, you’ve hopefully done some googling and are completely sure about what schools on your college list are test-optional, and which aren’t. For those that are test-optional, though, here are some factors to consider when deciding whether or not to send in those standardized test scores:
The competitiveness of the schools you’re applying to
Perhaps the first question you should ask when deciding whether or not to send your scores is, “How competitive are the schools I’m applying to?” While this question may seem somewhat irrelevant at first, it certainly helps to consider the group of applicants you’re applying with. For example, if you’re applying to a school with an acceptance rate of around 30-40%, having stellar grades, extracurriculars, and essays will likely be enough to grant you acceptance – even without standardized test scores.
On the other hand, if applying to a top or Ivy-League level university, it is likely that the admissions pool is full of many other amazing students. Thus, whether or not admitted to such highly competitive schools may come down to the smallest of factors, including standardized test scores. Let’s say that you and another applicant are judged against each other. Both of you have similarly great GPAs, extracurriculars, and essays. In this case, a high SAT or ACT score on top of your application might just give you the extra boost you need for admission. This might be especially true if the other applicant did not send in their scores. Thus, unless you think your score is not necessarily “high” or competitive enough for a school, we recommend sending in standardized test scores to top colleges.
With that said, though, what exactly constitutes a “high” or competitive standardized test score for a particular university? That’s a great question! Let’s get into it.
Consider your schools’ average scores
Each university has a unique range of SAT and ACT scores that they usually accept. Usually, you can find what these are by typing “*insert university name* average SAT (or ACT).” What will typically show up is the middle 50% of accepted SAT/ACT scores into that college (think the 25th-75th percentile). If determined to get into a particular school, we highly recommend you aim for a score within this range (and on the higher end, if possible). However, if you received a score below your school’s 25th percentile for either the SAT or ACT, we might recommend not sending this score to test-optional schools – as it may lower your chances of admission.
If you want more information about any college’s accepted applicants average stats (GPA, SAT, etc.), you can also look up “*insert college name* student profile” and try to find the one for the most recent class. This is an example of a student profile from Boston University, one of many schools that have gone test optional for their fall 2022 and spring 2023 applicants.
Does your SAT/ACT score complement your GPA?
On that note, another factor to consider is how your standardized test scores compare to your other “stats,” such as GPA. What constitutes a “high” GPA and SAT or ACT score is highly subjective. Therefore, it is a good idea to look at the most recent class profile of the schools you’re applying to. See how your GPA and standardized test scores are in comparison to the class averages. If your GPA and SAT or ACT score are both relatively high in comparison to the class average, then definitely submit those scores! Or, if you find that your GPA is somewhat low, but your standardized test scores are somewhat high, then sending them in could definitely be a boost to your application.
On the other hand, if you find that you have a relatively high GPA but low SAT or ACT score, sending such scores in could potentially lower your chances of admission. However, the impact it has on your application definitely depends on how “low” your SAT or ACT score compares to your GPA. If your standardized test score is within the middle 50% range or anywhere above a school’s 25th percentile, you will likely be fine as you have a high GPA. After all, while a GPA represents all the hard work you’ve completed over four years, a standardized test score reflects a few hours within your day. Thus, your GPA definitely does carry more weight than your SAT (for most schools, at least).
If you have any special circumstances
Some students, like those in athletics or those looking to apply for special scholarships or programs, may find that they are required to send in their standardized test scores to retain eligibility for such activities. Thus, before you decide not to send your scores to colleges, it’s best to make sure you don’t fall into one of these categories beforehand. Let’s take a look.
Pre-pandemic, all upcoming or prospective college athletes were required to meet NCAA standards, which included a minimum 2.3 GPA in core courses, a qualifying test score on the SAT or ACT, and more. The higher an athlete’s GPA, the lower they could score on the standardized tests without losing eligibility. However, due to limited capacity and shutdowns at testing centers over the course of the pandemic, the NCAA stopped requiring standardized test scores for athletes for the 2021-2022 and 2023-2023 academic year.
Despite this action taken by the NCAA, specific university athletic programs may still require prospective athletes to send in their standardized test scores. According to the NCAA, around 37% of D1 colleges still expect that prospective athletes submit their standardized test scores.
So, if you are a prospective college athlete, we highly recommend reaching out to the coaches of the programs you’re interested in. Find out for sure whether or not you’ll need to send in your standardized test scores. After all, better safe than sorry!
Scholarships or Special Programs
Similarly, specific scholarships or special programs may still necessitate that interested applicants submit their standardized test scores. While some universities have started awarding merit aid to students without requiring SAT or ACT scores, this is not the case for all colleges. So, if you’re planning on applying to any scholarships, special programs, or anything else of the sort at your university, your best bet is to check the policy on every application.
We’re almost done! However, we know that we just went over a lot.
So, to sum, here’s when you might want to send your SAT/ACT scores to a school:
- When it is between the 25th and 75th percentile (for SAT/ACT scores) of a school applying to (check the class profile!)
- If applying to a hyper-competitive school where most students likely have stellar GPAs, extracurriculars, and standardized test scores
- If your SAT or ACT score “elevates” your application in that it is “equal to” or surpasses your GPA, AP scores, etc. (based on how your scores compare to those of others)
- If required to send for a specific scholarship or special program (including athletic programs)
Here’s when you might want to consider not sending your SAT/ACT scores:
- If they are below the 25th percentile for the school applying to
- If they do not “elevate” your application and are relatively low in comparison to your GPA, AP scores, etc.
We urge students not to be embarrassed or feel ashamed about not sending their standardized test scores. It is completely normal, and is simply the wise choice sometimes. It also does not reflect badly on you as a student – people perform better in different types of environments. Ultimately, however, no matter whether you decide to send in your test scores or not, we wish you the best of luck with your college applications. Have fun in college!
Don’t miss: Scholarships360’s free scholarship search tool
Frequently asked questions
Should I send both my SAT and ACT score to colleges?
If you choose to send a standardized score to universities, send in the one you scored higher on. This might seem confusing as both tests have different scoring systems. These “concordance tables” tell you the equivalent of your SAT or ACT score on the other exam. For example, while a 1560 SAT score is equivalent to an ACT score of 35, a 1180 on the SAT is equivalent to a 24 on the ACT.