The Test Optional Policy and How It affects College Applicants


A book at many students use to study for the SAT (Credit: Kevin Han)

Kevin Han

Covid-19 has, undoubtedly, brought numerous changes to the world, several of them involving students. Because of this, millions of students around the country are worried about how this pandemic has, and will, affect their application processes for colleges and universities in the United States.

The major change that most students are concerned about is the new Test Optional/Test Blind Policy. This new policy is sure to grasp the attention of most, if not all, college applicants and even the admissions officials. Test Optional means that colleges still count the SAT/ACT scores as a part of the student’s application, but is not mandatory to apply. However, Test Blind means that even if a student puts an above average test score in their application, it wouldn’t be counted as part of their admissions.

Due to the safety issues in many testing sites, most colleges and universities have dropped the standardized testing requirements. According to Mrs. Kara Stamper, the CVHS College & Career Specialist, the “most impactful change is [going to be] the test optional policy implemented at a majority of universities.” More than 1,600 colleges are going Test Optional or Test Blind starting Fall 2022. That is, according to FairTest, about 65% of Bachelor-Degree Institutions in the U.S.

This affects college applicants as well as the admissions officials because of many reasons. Since the SAT/ACT and other standardized test scores aren’t mandatory, there was a rise in college applications to the nation’s most prestigious universities. An article from Forbes states, “[Roughly] 57,435 students applied to Harvard, an increase of 43% over the previous year,” however, “more than 95% of applicants were rejected.”

This new policy puts a burden on the students because, without test scores, they would need to participate in more activities, competitions, and community services, all while focusing on their grades to stand out among the tens of thousands of other students applying for the same colleges. Karen Koo, a freshman at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, stated that “My ACT score was really high and advantageous to my college application, but because of the test optional policy, it became less of an importance to my application, negatively affecting my college admissions.”

However, that does not mean that the new Test Optional/Test Blind Policy is not optimal for all students. For some students, who’s test scores were below average or lower than what was standardized for many colleges, this new policy is a ray of hope. Since the scores have less weight in college applications, if students focus on their schoolwork and other extracurricular activities, they would have more chances to get into their choice of colleges and universities. An anonymous student at the University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, claims that “My practice SAT score was not high, so I didn’t take the SATs because it wasn’t mandatory. The Test Optional/Blind policy helped me get into a university.”

The Test Optional/Blind policy has also dropped the number of students taking the SAT by a tremendous amount. Because the scores were not mandatory, less people took the SAT compared to last year. The number of 2021 high school grads taking the SAT declined by almost 700,000 (more than 30%) from the 2020 total. According to a report from CollegeBoard that was released recently, “Many students attempted to take the SAT but were unfortunately unable to due to widespread COVID-related disruptions, with more than one million test registrations cancelled as schools and test centers had to close or reduce capacity.” Due to the fact that less people took the SAT, the average score of 1060 for the Class of 2021 rose slightly compared to that of last year’s 1051.

This new Test Optional/Test Blind Policy has its good and bad sides, but it is sure to affect new college applicants and applications process, whether it be this year, or in the near future.

Credit: Kevin Han