With or Without Test Scores: Advice from the College Counselors

Scott Hill, Director of College Counseling
During the next few months, hundreds of thousands of high school students around the country will contemplate taking the SAT or ACT exams to gain admission to their dream school. But COVID-19 has changed the testing process significantly — from the way tests are administered to the way schools use them in the admission process.
As experienced college counselors, we are here to answer students' questions about the ACT and SAT while providing them with the knowledge to make an informed decision regarding their scores and the college admission process.
The Changing Role of Standardized Tests
The role of standardized tests in the college application process has shifted over the past several years. A growing number of institutions have offered the choice of submitting test scores or foregoing submission year in and year out. This slow trend was jettisoned last spring when the pandemic forced most institutions to offer test-optional policies. Numerous changes ensued at a breakneck pace, including the elimination of SAT Subject Tests, discontinuation of the SAT Essay, more reliance on Advanced Placement examinations, and the continuation of test-optional and test-blind admission policies into the future.

COVID-19 disrupted an entire cycle of the college search and application process when test centers and college campuses were forced to close in the spring and summer of 2020. Approximately 85% of colleges and universities adopted a test-optional policy for the Class of 2021 due to the inability of prospective students to register for exams and to alleviate the worries of all applicants. A few institutions, most notably the University of California system, made the decision to adopt a test-blind policy for 2020-2021 and into the future. Test blind means a college will not consider scores, even if an applicant submits them.
Should I submit my ACT/SAT test scores or apply test-optional?
In the past few weeks, many selective to highly selective institutions have declared their intent to continue the test-optional policy for the Class of 2022. We believe most, if not all, institutions will follow suit and remain test optional for the next application cycle. If a student decides to apply without test scores, colleges will continue to evaluate an applicants’ academic fit through a holistic assessment of grades, rigor of curriculum, personal essays and short answers, recommendations, and experiences (including college summer programs, internships, employment and household responsibilities).

This is where a Barstow education truly matters. We provide the level of rigor and involvement institutions want. Every year I read outstanding college essays demonstrating the strength of our English department and our emphasis on writing across the curriculum. The robust service learning program and plentiful leadership and extracurricular opportunities allow our students to shine in the application process. That is why it is so important to utilize the resources of the college counseling office throughout upper school and to leverage the unique strengths of our program and our extensive experience.
Should a Student Take the ACT or SAT for Other Reasons?
Despite the recent changes to testing policies, we still believe there is great value in taking the ACT or SAT. A strong test score gives a student more flexibility when applying to colleges. Scores may also be required or highly recommended for some merit-based scholarships and honors programs even if they are not required for admission to the university.

I urge each Barstow student to work with me and Ms. Anderson to determine the best course of action for their particular situation. We want prospective families to know, college counseling services are available to every Barstow student. We build individual relationships so we can help each student find their right fit. And we are only a phone call away to provide direction and support when we hear the words, “Should I apply test optional?”
    • Our College Counselors, Caelin Anderson and Scott Hill, have a combined 38 years of experience in their field.