As more and more colleges go test optional, you might be wondering if you need to sit for the SAT or ACT at all. Schools that are test optional do not require standardized test scores as part of a complete application. Instead, you have the chance to decide for yourself if your scores accurately reflect your abilities and potential to excel in college.
Even if every school on your college list is test optional, it’s still a smart idea to take—and prep for!—at least one standardized test. For one, “optional” doesn’t mean that that colleges won't consider your test scores if you submit them. Without them, greater weight is given to other aspects of your application such as your transcript, essay, extracurricular and letters of recommendation. If you’re happy with your scores, go ahead and include with them your application.
Beyond getting in, your test scores could qualify you for college merit scholarships (often a separate application process). Higher test scores can lead to more scholarship dollars, which mean more options for you!
Higher scores can increase a student’s desirability in the eyes of financial aid officers and consequently increase the size of the aid package that student is offered. In fact, standardized test scores (along with GPA and rigor of coursework) may determine who will receive merit scholarships. Some schools even give out guaranteed scholarships to students whose scores meet a minimum threshold.
|School Name||SAT Scores* |
|ACT Scores||GPA||Admit Rate||Merit Award**|
|Hobart and William Smith Colleges||1230||29||3.41||50%||$25,000|
|Saint Louis University||1210||28||3.83||60%||$15,643|
|Santa Clara University||1300||30||3.67||49%||$16,659|
|St. John's University||1100||25||3.40||63%||$12,918|
|Texas Christian University||1180||27||NR||49%||$15,535|
|University of Miami||1320||30||4.30||38%||$17,841|
*Critical Reading + Math
**Average merit award for qualifying individuals.
Even if you don’t need test scores for your college application, you will likely need them for most of the scholarship applications you fill out, including those for outside scholarships that are not affiliated with your college but sponsored by community organizations or foundations.
Kal Chany, author of our book Paying For College Without Going Broke, explains, “Nothing can change a student’s fortune faster than a big increase on the SAT.” Why? While it takes four years to accumulate all those great grades on your high school transcripts, the typical test prep course takes six weeks.
Take a free practice test and see how you score.
Check out our video on everything you want to know about financial aid: