Making Test-Optional Admissions Real

More than 400 colleges issue joint statement drafted by NACAC.

August 10, 2020

This has been quite a year for the test-optional movement in college admissions. The vast majority of colleges are now test optional (or test blind), at least for a year, as colleges seek to make it easier to apply in a year in which COVID-19 has limited students' access to testing centers.

But as more colleges have adopted the policies, some colleges have said that they prefer students to take the SAT or ACT. Many high school counselors report that students find such requests confusing as they raise the question of whether test optional is really test optional.

In response to the uncertainty, the National Association for College Admission Counseling released a letter on Friday, signed by representatives of more than 400 colleges. It said:

"Due to the cancellation of SAT and ACT testing dates, more than 1,200 U.S. colleges and universities announced they are moving to a test-optional policy, and more will surely follow. By going test-optional, institutions are making a definitive statement that they will not need test scores to make admission decisions this year. Despite the change in policies, high school students and their parents are asking, 'Does test optional really mean test optional?' The answer, simply put, is: YES. The following colleges with test-optional policies in place affirm that they will not penalize students for the absence of a standardized test score. Together, we strongly endorse a student-centered, holistic approach to admission that will not disadvantage any student without a test score."

Angel B. Pérez, CEO of NACAC, said, "I decided to create the statement and circulate it among schools because I have heard from our high school counselor colleagues that their students just don't believe that test-optional schools really mean it," he said. "While not all of the schools that have gone test optional will sign up, I think building a coalition of the willing is important."

The list remains open for more colleges to join.

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Scott Jaschik

Scott Jaschik, Editor, is one of the three founders of Inside Higher Ed. With Doug Lederman, he leads the editorial operations of Inside Higher Ed, overseeing news content, opinion pieces, career advice, blogs and other features. Scott is a leading voice on higher education issues, quoted regularly in publications nationwide, and publishing articles on colleges in publications such as The New York Times, The Boston Globe, The Washington Post, Salon, and elsewhere. He has been a judge or screener for the National Magazine Awards, the Online Journalism Awards, the Folio Editorial Excellence Awards, and the Education Writers Association Awards. Scott served as a mentor in the community college fellowship program of the Hechinger Institute on Education and the Media, of Teachers College, Columbia University. He is a member of the board of the Education Writers Association. From 1999-2003, Scott was editor of The Chronicle of Higher Education. Scott grew up in Rochester, N.Y., and graduated from Cornell University in 1985. He lives in Washington.

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