Monday, October 11, 2021

Are the ACT and SAT still needed?

The ACT and SAT tests - still relevant?

Lately, there's been a lot of talk circulating about a growing number of colleges and universities across the country scrapping ACT and SAT test scores as part of their admissions requirements. Indeed, according to an article that appeared in a special section of the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel back on September 26, 2021, citing data from the educational consulting firm IvyWise, a whopping, "Seventy-two percent of colleges and universities adopted test-optional policies for the 2021-22 school year, and some schools are now extending that policy for the next one to two years..." (College & Career Guide, 2021, para. 5).

The article explains that the COVID-19 pandemic has certainly played a role in all of this, but that the practice of forgoing these test scores in the admissions process is not entirely new. In fact, according to the article, citing information from an education-focused financial planning resource called Edmit, "Since the mid-2000s, various universities have included test-optional clauses in their admissions policies" (College & Career Guide, 2021, para. 3).

Among the many colleges and universities that have eliminated, for now, ACT and SAT test score requirements, are, "...Cornell University, Penn State, Williams College, Amherst College, Boston College, and Columbia University" (College & Career Guide, 2021, para. 5).

But whether or not your top college choices are taking ACT / SAT scores into consideration at this time, it's still to your benefit to take the test(s), and to put forth your best effort with adequate preparation.

Even if the schools on your shortlist aren't looking at these test scores, the scores may still open doors to you in other ways. Try to see the test(s) more as a standalone, independent credential that can help pave the way to other academic and financial rewards and opportunities, rather than simply another standard item to check off on the college admissions "to do" list. Let's dive deeper and explore some examples.

The ACT / SAT and scholarship money

Many outside scholarship contests not affiliated with your chosen college(s) still look at these scores to differing degrees when determining who they are going to award. Many of these scholarships are local, coming from organizations like your own community's chamber of commerce; Lions, Kiwanis, Rotary, Moose, and Elk service clubs; neighborhood businesses and perhaps even your parents'/guardians' employers; etc. In short, many organizations and businesses that award scholarships are still taking these test scores into consideration. Some may weigh test scores less or more so than others, but nonetheless, they are being taken into some consideration. It's to your advantage, then, to still take these tests seriously. Not doing so may cause you to leave serious scholarship money on the table.

A possible resume builder?

A noteworthy test score(s) can potentially be used to your advantage on your resume/CV, at least for a time being early on, during the remainder of your high school years and into your college years. Combined with some solid work and service experiences, an excellent score(s) can be an additional way you demonstrate to employers and academic institutions/opportunities that you mean business.  

An objective, proven measure of skill mastery and academic potential

While test scores are far from being the only tool to measure knowledge, ability, and potential, they arguably provide a more objective, at-a-glance, snapshot of your capabilities. Noteworthy scores demonstrate in a quick and easy-to-understand format that you not only possess a good amount of academic knowledge, but also, and perhaps more importantly, that you can think critically and act strategically, as well.

Preparing you for college

Finally, a solid score on the ACT, and/or the SAT if you choose to take this test, demonstrates that you are indeed prepared to handle college-level work. Now, even if the schools you're seeking admission to are not considering these test scores as part of their admissions requirements, at least demonstrate to yourself - for yourself - that you are prepared for college-level work. At the end of the day, you're the one responsible for ensuring you're capable and up to the task. It's not the school that's responsible. You may be admitted to your dream college or university without having to submit these scores, but you can just as easily find yourself burning out and perhaps even dropping/flunking out. That's the stark reality of it. Take the test(s) seriously, to the absolute best of your ability, and do it for you, if for no one else. Do it for you.

Now, doing well on the ACT demonstrates that you have at least been keeping pace with grade-level work all these years. In other words, you're where you should be at, generally speaking. You're performing at grade level. Doing well on the SAT, meanwhile, shows that you're generally performing above grade level.        


While many colleges and universities across the country are not taking ACT and SAT test scores into account at this time when deciding on who to admit, it is clear that these tests are still relevant, for a variety of reasons. Solid test scores can still come in handy when competing for outside scholarships. Scores can potentially be used as a resume builder, demonstrating to employers and various academic institutions/opportunities that you take your work seriously. And finally, if for nothing else, noteworthy scores will show you that you're ready to handle college-level work. 


College & Career Guide.  (2021, September 26).  Colleges extending test-optional practices.  College & Career Guide section, p. 5S.  Milwaukee Journal Sentinel.

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