It may be hard to believe with all the snow on the ground, but spring is almost here! If you are a high school junior that means you’re taking college admissions tests, visiting college campuses and attending college information sessions. You will be inundated with lots of facts, figures and anecdotes. But when it comes to admissions tests (SAT/ACT/SAT II), please pay close attention! Each college has its own test policies and/or testing requirements. High school students and their families sometimes need a decoding map when it comes to today’s college admissions testing terminology.
Score Choice: The College Board offers students the feature known as score choice, which gives students the option to choose the SAT scores by test date that they want sent to colleges. Students must opt for this feature when ordering scores; otherwise, all scores will automatically be sent to the students’ requested colleges. Please note, however, colleges have their own test reporting policies and not all colleges allow students to exercise score choice. Stanford University is one such school that does not allow students to elect the score choice option.
Superscore: A common practice in college admissions is to superscore SAT (or sometimes ACT) scores. Superscoring is when admissions encourages students to submit their test scores from several different test dates and admissions considers only the highest score in each section. The college ultimately creates a “new composite score” or superscore. Currently, superscoring is a practice primarily done with the SAT. However, with the rise of students taking the ACT nationwide, a few colleges are beginning to superscore the ACT as well. On the flip side, there are a small number of colleges that have a single test review policy. Single test review is when the college or university only considers the highest composite score obtained on the SAT or ACT during a single administered test date.
Test Flexible (or Options) Many high achieving high school students take a number of other standardized tests in addition to ACTs and SATs (AP exams and SAT II tests). Some colleges recognize that these tests may better highlight students’ strengths and abilities and have adopted test flexible (or options) policies. Schools with test flexible policies offer students the option to select which tests or parts of tests they want admissions to review. NYU’s testing policy currently allows applicants to submit results from one of the following testing options: the SAT, the ACT with writing, three subject test scores, or three AP exam scores. Hamilton College’s test flexible policy requires students to submit either the SAT, the ACT or three exams of their choice (which must include a quantitative test, a verbal or writing test, and a third test of a student’s choice).
Test Optional In 1984 Bates College, a highly selective liberal arts college in Lewiston, ME, created a big stir when it announced that it would no longer require students to submit the ACT/SAT/SAT II for admissions. Nearly 30 years later Bates still believes that the student’s high school transcript tells “a much bigger story” than a student’s standardized test scores and does not require standardized testing during the admissions process. Within the last decade there has been a sizeable increase in the number of colleges that have adopted a test optional policy. Check www.fairtest.org to learn which colleges and universities are test optional. Test optional does not universally have the same meaning in college admissions. At some colleges, test optional is offered to all prospective applicants who believe that their test scores do not reflect their abilities. At other colleges, there are parameters that students must meet to be able to apply without test scores. Sometimes students must meet a minimal GPA requirement to be eligible to withhold test scores. Additionally, some colleges require students to submit a graded paper in lieu of the SAT/ACT and/or have an admissions interview.
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