Perspectives on ACT/SAT Testing Optional Policies (Class of 2021 College Admissions)

As the college admissions offices continue to navigate this unprecedented time, we’ve been closely following the news of colleges and universities adopting Testing Optional Policies for the Class of 2021. 

Refresher: A Testing Optional Policy means that submitting ACT or SAT scores will not be required as part of your college application, though you can still choose to submit your ACT or SAT scores. In previous posts, we’ve highlighted what testing optional policies are and why the ACT and SAT scores are still significant. Read more here: “Rumors Abound: ACT/SAT Testing Optional Policies during COVID-19 Crisis” & “UC ACT/SAT Testing Optional Announcement.”

Since this situation is ever-developing, we wanted to share a couple additional perspectives on what colleges adopting this Testing Optional Policy means for the Class of 2021 and for future generations of applicants. 


How do College Admissions Offices view Testing Optional Policies?

Let’s look at a sample case: Cornell University, an Ivy League, announced last week that it too will adopt a Testing Optional policy for the Class of 2021. In its statement, Cornell made clear that “results from the ACT or SAT might still be a meaningful differentiator,” specifically for students who had the opportunity to take the test and chose not to. Read full announcement here.  

The wording of this announcement gives us a glimpse into the thinking behind college admissions for the Class of 2021, not just at Cornell’s admissions office but at admissions offices of other universities as well: students who can take an ACT or SAT  should take an ACT or SAT. 

Additionally, Cornell (as with many other competitive universities, such as the UC system) emphasizes that the Testing Optional Policy is only for this current application cycle.

The option to not submit test scores is meant for students in the Class of 2021 who absolutely cannot take an ACT or SAT due to financial, health, or access issues related to the COVID-19 crisis.  


How do experts on College Admissions view Testing Optional Policies?

As we’ve touched base with several local college counselors, they’ve each offered similar advice: Still take the ACT or SAT. Score the highest you can in order to remain competitive. 

In addition, these college counselors warn that if you do not submit a score with your college application, it communicates that you either are hiding a bad score, not taking advantage of the extra time to prepare for the test, or not taking advantage of the extra opportunities to take the test (including the ACT’s announcement of at-home testing in Fall 2020). 

Ultimately, not having an ACT or SAT test score could make you look less determined or less organized as an applicant. 


What does all of this mean?


  1. If you do not have financial, health, or access issues that prevent you from taking the ACT or SAT, then you should still take the test and submit your score. If you choose not to take the ACT or SAT but had the opportunity to, then that also will be taken into consideration. 

  2. Aim for the highest score you can get on either ACT or SAT to make your application the most competitive it can be. Due to a lower number of students submitting ACT or SAT scores, especially lower scores, it is expected that the overall average of ACT and SAT scores will increase.


If you have additional questions about Testing Optional Policies or what this means for you or your student, please let us know. We are here to help!

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