Wednesday, April 13, 2022

Advice to Juniors on Sending Test Scores

by Patrick O'Connor, Ph.D.

Juniors, welcome to the college application process. Many of you have been thinking about college, and some of you are just starting. Either way, the nuts and bolts of applying to college will soon be an important part of your life, and each part of the application has its own special needs. (Psst—need help with essays? Try this.)
That’s certainly true about sending test scores. For the longest time, the adults who work in college admissions—counselors and college admissions officers in particular—saw this as an easy idea. Make submission of test scores optional, and that will make for a much less stressful college application experience.
Then again, maybe not—and there are a good couple of reasons why:
  • If they haven’t already, there’s a good chance your counselor will offer this advice on sending test scores to test-optional schools: “If your scores are below the college’s average test score for admitted students, don’t send them. If they are higher, send them.”
As a rule, this isn’t a bad strategy, as long as you’re looking at an average that will help you make a good decision. If you’re applying to a college’s Engineering program, and all you have are averages for all admitted students, you may not be making the right choice. In cases like this, call the admissions office, or the Engineering school, and ask about average scores for admitted Engineering majors. There’s likely to be a big difference.
  •  A number of students believe test optional schools really prefer students who submit test scores. As proof of this, students point to the few colleges who actually break down their admit rates by category; in one case, a college took over 7 times as many students who submitted test scores over those that did not. This would suggest students would be wise to submit test scores, no matter what they are.
This strategy deserves a second look. Some would argue the only students who don’t submit scores are those students whose scores are low. I’m generally willing to go along with this idea, but if there’s a junior out there with a 1500 on the SAT who isn’t submitting them because they don’t think their future should be judged on one four-hour test, that’s the kid I’d take first if I were a college—and they’d get a full ride scholarship.
Building on this, the next assumption is students with low test scores also have low grades, so it doesn’t really matter if they submit test scores or not—either way, they wouldn’t get in.
This is where things fall apart. Many colleges first went test optional because they felt test scores didn’t really tell them anything they didn’t already know. Others—mostly school counselors—insisted some of the brightest students they know who would tear it up in college are just plain bad test takers. I can attest to this; I worked at a school for gifted kids, and out of a senior class of about 45, typically 3 or 4 didn’t test well. Since that represents up to 8 percent of the class, you can see where the “low scores means they can’t do the work” doesn’t hold up.
Juniors shouldn’t overinterpret the admit rates for non-test submitters. Your better bet is to look at the average GPA for admitted students; if your GPA is at or above that, and your scores aren’t great, apply anyway, and keep the scores out of it. The college may not admit many non-test takers, but the ones they do take are likely to fit your description.

No comments:

Post a Comment