Test-Optional Strategy – A Thought on SAT/ACT Score Submission
October 19, 2022
by Ben Sexton
As part of my daily work routine, I read several message boards about college counseling and test preparation. Many families are curious about when to submit SAT/ACT scores to test-optional colleges – this question comes up nearly every day. In response, from various sources, I often see the following advice given:
“Don’t submit your score unless it’s above the average/50th percentile score for the college.”
It’s not terrible advice – it’s hard to go wrong submitting an above average score to a college. But I do wonder if the advice is correct.
If you’re not supposed to submit a score below the average/50th percentile, that means that half of the people who submitted scores (and got in) should not in fact have submitted scores. Obviously, that statement can’t be true, because all of those people did in fact get in.
We know that there is more to it than that – many of the lowest-scoring SAT/ACT students in a college class will be admitted for special interests, athletics being the most obvious but just one among many. An “unhooked” student can’t submit the same lower scores and expect the same acceptance. But these special cases cannot possibly account for 50% of an incoming class. Unhooked students who are submitting scores below the 50th percentile must be getting in.
If you’re scoring below the 25th percentile of college’s score range, I think your case is more clear cut – do not submit scores. But never submitting anything below the 50th percentile? I think submitting a score that is close the 50th percentile but not quite there can still provide a quality-check for a strong GPA, in times when strong GPAs are becoming nearly universal…
Something to think about as you decide whether to submit your SAT/ACT scores. Talk to your college counselor too, of course.