Why You Might Want to Take the ACT or SAT Even if Your Dream College Doesn’t Require It


comparingHave you recently discovered your dream school no longer requires the ACT or SAT for admission? This often gives students the impression that they should skip taking the exams, but that's not necessarily the case. Here’s why you should consider signing up for a test date even if your first-choice college doesn’t require you to submit a score with your application.

While it May Not Be “Required,” a Test May be "Recommended"

Even if a school no longer requires ACT or SAT scores for admission, it may still recommend that you take one of the tests. This probably means that while students may be admitted to the college or university without submitting scores, the admissions committee still considers the scores when students do submit them. In this case, your scores could help make the case for your admission, especially if some of your high school grades are lackluster.

Other Schools on Your List May Require the ACT or SAT

Most schools still require you to take the ACT or SAT, and while your dream school may have made it optional or recommended, the case may not be the same at other colleges and universities where you plan to apply. You don’t want to jeopardize your chances of admission to several schools on your applications list simply because your top school doesn't require test scores.

This brings us to another point: you definitely don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket. Your dream school may be within reach, but do you have a plan if you aren't admitted? The smartest thing to do is to leave as many options open as possible by taking the ACT or SAT.

You May Find A School You Wish To Apply to That Requires Scores

Imagine the following. You have a list of schools currently, and none require you to apply with ACT or SAT scores. You choose to skip the exams. A few weeks later, however, you discover another school you want to apply to, only to find out that this one does require you to submit standardized test scores. Now, you're scrambling to register and prepare for a test—and that's assuming you have time left to do so. This scenario is not ideal. 

Because the college search process is dynamic, you should always anticipate the unexpected. You may decide you'd like to study in a specialized field; your list of schools may grow or shrink depending on your financial situation; your preference for your future school's size or location may change. All of these factors will obviously affect where you plan to apply. One factor that shouldn't get in your way is a missing test score.

Test Scores Can Highlight Academic Ability Suggested by Your GPA

The ACT and SAT provide students with the opportunity to demonstrate skills in reasoning, comprehension, and content mastery. While your high school GPA is the best indicator of your academic abilities, solid test scores can strengthen your appeal by showing colleges and universities that you're able to perform on a high level when presented with challenging, comprehensive material across subject areas. Even if a school doesn't require you to submit standardized test scores, a good performance on the ACT or SAT can help convince admissions officers that you're capable of handling college-level work.


While "test-optional" schools have made lots of news over the past few years, the ACT and SAT remain very relevant in college admissions. They aren't the sole or even the best indicators of your potential to succeed in college; rather, they can serve as a big feather in your cap when your application goes in front of the admissions officers. If you've been considering sitting out on the ACT and SAT, give it a second thought!


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