Should I Submit My SAT Score to Test Optional Schools?

Padya Paramita

Should I Submit My SAT Score to Test Optional Schools?

There is absolutely no doubt that 2020 has been an atypical year on all fronts, and the college admissions scene is no different. With social distancing protocols set up and many cities around the world going on lockdown, it had become impossible at a point for prospective college students to sit for the SAT or the ACT. And many cities are still not deemed safe enough to host in-person administration. With that in mind, numerous colleges around the country have implemented test optional policies to support applicants. So now the question on your mind is: should I submit my SAT score to test optional schools?

You may already have an SAT score or ACT score but you’re not sure if it’s good enough. Or, you might still be waiting to take the test and wondering if it’s worth spending time studying when you could be working on other parts of your application instead. We’ve posed some questions that explore your options and help guide you through the question of “should I submit my SAT score to test optional schools?”

How competitive are the schools you’re applying to?

Whether or not your answer is yes to the question “should I submit my SAT score to test optional schools” depends on which colleges you’re applying to. While it’s true that almost all top colleges have shifted to test optional models, unless they’re completely test-blind such as Caltech, most of them do still allow you to submit your standardized test scores. If you have an SAT score, consider how competitive the schools on your list are. If you’re applying to a school with an acceptance rate of 30-40%, and you have stellar grades and extracurriculars, and a compelling personal statement, you could opt out on submitting your test results. 

However, if you have your eyes on an Ivy League college or the likes of Stanford and MIT, it might be worth considering sending your SAT score. Since these schools are extremely competitive, and the admissions pool is full of brilliant students, admissions decisions might come down to the smallest of factors. If an admissions reader is debating between you and a student of similar impressiveness — and you have a high SAT score and the other student  hasn't submitted one, you might just get the yes in such a case. Unless your score is not competitive, consider submitting them to higher ranked colleges.

Does your SAT score fit in with the median of your schools?

Another very straightforward way of deciding whether or not you should submit your SAT results to test optional colleges is to check the medians for admitted students at these institutions. If your SAT score falls near or above the 75th percentile for the college, you should definitely submit it. You have absolutely nothing to lose in that case — your SAT score adds another layer that benefits your application. On the flip side it might be worth reconsidering sending your score to a top school such as Yale or Harvard if the rest of your application is outstanding but your SAT score is on the lower side. The same way a strong score definitely helps you get an edge if you submit it, a lower score might put a taint on your otherwise wonderful application. If you don’t feel confident in your score and you don’t have time to retake the test, since you have the option this cycle, you might as well take advantage of it.

Does your SAT score complement or elevate your GPA?

If you’re wondering “should I submit my SAT score to test optional schools,” try comparing it with other parts of your application. Since the SAT is an academic data point alongside your GPA, you can look at the two numbers side by side and think about what they convey about your application. If you have a high GPA and high SAT score, there’s no question about it — submit! If you have a GPA on the lower side in comparison to the median at the colleges on your list, but you have a high SAT score, submitting your SAT score can help boost your application. 

If you have a high GPA but low SAT score, your application might not benefit very much from sending in your result. But again, it depends on exactly how low your SAT score is.  If it’s within the median range or bordering the 25th percentile, you could submit your result since you have a high GPA. You’ve worked hard over your four years of high school to maintain top grades, whereas the SAT reflects a single day’s performance. Your SAT score definitely matters, but know that your GPA does carry more weight in the process because of this. Admissions officers know that you could have just had a bad day on your SAT test date. 

Are you still waiting to take the SAT?

Since SAT sessions started getting once the social distancing protocols were set up back in March, it’s understandable if you haven’t been able to take the SAT at all since then. At the beginning of the year, the spring semester of junior year seemed like a great time to take the test, have plenty of time to retake it, and then submit your scores to college. However, if you’ve had a number of in-person test cancelations in your area — and are unable to travel anywhere for the next month’s session, it might be worth reconsidering the question of “should I submit my SAT scores to test optional schools.” 

Now that it’s almost time for early decision applications, you might be too busy polishing your personal statement, finishing your supplemental essays, and  juggling senior year. If you register for the SAT now, you might not have time to study. The Common App — and other application systems and sometimes individual school-specific questions — provide students with a COVID-19 question to elaborate on how their circumstances may have been affected. You can briefly information about your test cancelation here. Colleges will understand, especially if you weren’t able to study or take the test due to home conditions or a massive breakout in your area.

Do you have your eyes on a merit scholarship?

Many colleges offer merit scholarships to a select number of academically-gifted students each year. Sometimes these scholarships have requirements such as students achieving a certain score or above in their SATs. You should conduct more research on the individual school and scholarship to determine whether this applies in your case, but if you feel like you want a merit scholarship, and you wish to put yourself in the running, consider submitting your SAT score if it’s strong.

As you can see, there are a variety of factors to consider as you deliberate over the question of “should I submit my SAT score to test optional schools.” Hopefully you’ve drawn a clear conclusion as you think about your school list, your SAT score in comparison to your GPA, and your chances to take or retake the exam at this point. While the situation isn’t ideal, remember that you’re not alone. At the end of the day, colleges know and understand that this has been an unprecedented year. Things will work out — you got this!

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