August 7, 2014

What to do if your tests don’t make the grade

What do American University, Brandeis University, Union College, Muhlenberg College and Middlebury College have in common?

Yes, they are all excellent schools that will provide a fine education to their students.  But what they also share, according to FairTest, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, is the fact that they “do NOT use SAT/ACT scores for admitting substantial numbers of students into Bachelor Degree Programs as of Summer 2014.”

I work with many students of varying ability levels, some of whom have re-taken the standardized tests more than three times to see if they can achieve higher scores, just so that they will be competitive in the college application market.  However, if after studying and taking classes and practice tests, applicants’ scores do not make the grade, what do they do about applying to the colleges that interest them?

If a school considers the SAT/ACT as a major factor, then the applicant has to be prepared to be deferred, rejected or wait-listed.  That is just the reality of the application situation.  However, sometimes the student’s profile, essays, recommendations, and special talents will mitigate a mediocre score.  But there are also many fine schools that do not consider these tests to be a vital element of the applicant’s big picture.  This could reduce the pressure and anxiety of the application process.

I regularly log on to Fair Test in order to peruse the growing number of colleges and universities that are “test optional,” “test flexible” or do not put a strong emphasis on standardized tests in the admissions process.  Although some of the schools look at the SAT or ACT scores to determine the placement of accepted candidates or to conduct research, the schools have an interest in reviewing applications of non-traditional or international students whose standardized test scores might otherwise eliminate them from consideration.

On Fair Test, you can find and  an alphabetized list of more than 800 schools. You will notice a superscript number from 1 to 7 alongside the names of many colleges.  Consult the key at the end of the list to find the corresponding clarification.  This list cuts down on the numbers of schools that are SAT/ACT test-free.  For example, #2 next to the name of the school means that the SAT/ACT is required for out-of-state applicant.  #3 means that the SAT/ACT “may be required but considered only when minimum GPA and/or class rank is not met.”

The website gathers its information from the following:  Barron’s Profiles of American Colleges 2013; College Board 2013 College Handbook; U.S News & World Report Best Colleges 2014; admissions office websites; news reports; and email communications. The Center is a non-profit organization, and it does accept donations in order to cover costs.

You can print a hard copy of Fair Test’s list from this PDF.  You might also want to read their statement, “Test Scores Do Not Equal Merit: Executive Summary.”


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