The Changing Role of SATs and ACTs

Like many high school seniors last spring, Georgia native Jaydon Dennis applied to many colleges in the hopes of gaining admission. One decision he had that past senior didn’t have to worry about is whether to include his SAT score on the application. 

 “I liked the schools that requested test scores because I felt like my scores reflected my intellect more than my GPA did,” says Dennis. He chose to send his scores to certain schools but refrained from sending his scores to others due to the fees required to do so. 

There are many factors that go into whether or not one decides to submit their scores, or will make a point to apply to colleges that do not require test scores. 

Rising high school seniors from all over the country are just beginning their journey through the lengthy college admissions process. Between essays, recommendation letters and resumes, applying to college is not an easy task. Many students have already completed the first step of this journey by taking the SAT and ACT. 

As some schools move to become test-optional, colleges have been putting a larger emphasis on the different areas of a student’s application. As standardized testing is appearing to play a smaller role in the admissions process, many are left questioning the future and importance of the ACT and SAT. 

Wade LaFontaine is the Senior Assistant Director of Undergraduate Admissions at the University of Georgia. UGA has refrained from continuing to be test-optional after the height of the COVID-19 pandemic, as LaFontaine explains, these scores are still pertinent in the admissions process. 

“Standardized test scores are supplemental to our review, but do add some context to the student’s performance,” says LaFontaine, “It allows us to understand that the student is not only great in the classroom but a good test taker as well.” 

Although many universities continue to require test scores, others have become test-optional. Rumors about the motives behind test-optional schools are common. Many believe that they are using this as a tactic to increase applications to bring in more money to the institution.

Although every university has its own reasons for putting certain policies in place, it is important to remember that “test-optional” does not necessarily guarantee an increase in applications. 

“During Covid, we were test-optional. It was the first time in history since we’ve started requiring tests that even if someone had an SAT or ACT score, they weren’t required to submit it,” says LaFontaine, “Even being test-optional, there wasn’t as much of an increase as you think there would be without having a test be required.”

Not every college is prioritizing financial gains during the admissions process. The University of Georgia is an example of an institution that values quality over quantity. 

“We want the best applications, not the most,” says LaFontaine. “We don’t want to be seen as a state adding extra applications for application fees to increase revenue. Our goal is to provide education to as many students as possible, but to also make sure that they’re successful.” 

Some colleges argue that they are test-optional because they believe that it is more important to see what students accomplish during their high school career as opposed to a single test. 

Just because a school requires test scores doesn’t mean that they haven’t developed a similar mindset. “Our university will be in a good position to have amazingly high achieving students with or without test scores,” LaFontaine says.

The SATs and ACTs aren’t everything they once were when it comes to college applications. However, the likelihood of these tests disappearing for good is still a long shot and extremely unlikely to happen anytime soon.    

“While schools may become more test-optional, ACT and SAT would be likely to adjust,” says LaFontaine. “Any business that is a business of that magnitude that has a national reputation will likely find a way to continue to be part of the higher education landscape.”

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