Choosing test-optional is not always a simple decision. Everyone would love, of course, to know whether to go test-optional right from the start of the college process. But, despite the best efforts of all parties involved, sometimes a student does test prep, works towards a goal, and does not reach it. At that point, depending on how far the student is from the goal, the best option may be not to continue testing and test prep. Once this decision is made, what comes next? What should the student pursue in the absence of test scores? The answer is a redoubled emphasis on grades. And academic tutoring helps maximize grades.
The question arises particularly at this time of year, when many students have prepared for and taken a December exam and/or received their PSAT results. For the schools a student is looking at, that student may “need” a 1400 for the score to become an asset, but the truth is that a 1400 simply isn’t attainable for all students. If a student has an 1100 at this point, and they need a 1400, we would almost always advise them to go test-optional.
No longer needing test preparation frees up time for the student and resources for the family. And now, with grades taking on increased importance, academic tutoring may be a logical next step. Academic tutoring is reliable – students who receive tutoring almost always see improved grades because the course material is sequential and straightforward. Students know what will be on the test or the paper. And with average GPAs across the country on the rise, even small improvements such as that from B+ to A- can be consequential. From our experience, the STEM subjects appear to be the areas in which students need the most help.
A student who is close to their score goal, or within reasonable reach of it, should probably pursue that higher test score. A strong score does remain an asset even at all test-optional schools. But if a student would need to pour 50+ hours into tutoring and practice testing to even have a chance of hitting a score goal… that is not a wise investment, not just because of the effort involved, but because of the probability of failure. Academic tutoring has a very low possibility of failure.
If you’re wondering where to commit your time and resources at this point in the college process, we’re happy to help advise you. College admissions may be as murky as ever, but one thing remains clear: grades remain monolithic and supreme.