Preparing to take the SAT or ACT can take a lot of time and more than a little money: aside from the materials that students may need to study for the exam, some parents prefer to enroll their children into preparatory classes or one-on-one tutoring sessions. But for some colleges and universities, entrance exams like the SAT and ACT aren’t required—and it’s a development that could change the way students get ready for college.
Some schools are moving away from college entrance exams in order to take a student’s entire high school experience into account: grades and the complexity of course loads, as well as extracurricular activities are more important to schools. A growing list of competitive colleges and universities is moving away from standardized testing and taking a “holistic” approach to evaluating potential students and to increase diversity on campuses. But what will that mean for students trying to make it into their choice schools?
A student’s chances of landing an acceptance letter to the school of her choice doesn’t—and shouldn’t—begin with her SAT or ACT score. Test-optional schools are concentrating on how students perform in their classes, as well as the difficulty of the classes they take. Students who enroll in advanced or college-prep courses in high school tend to be better prepared for more rigorous college coursework. Those classes not only prepare students for the challenges they’ll face in college, but it makes students more attractive to colleges and universities. Signing up for after-school assistance or meeting with a tutor can help students perform well in their tougher classes; you can also study with friends or use online education programs to work in a self-guided environment.
Schools still view students who participate in various extracurricular activities as “well-rounded” and easily adaptable, two attributes that can make you a more attractive potential student. You should choose after-school activities that you enjoy—drama, music, sports—but you should also consider volunteering for charities and nonprofit organizations in your area. Volunteering not only gives you a feeling of ownership in your community, it can also give you the skills you need to participate in college organizations once you get to college.
There are hundreds of schools who no longer require college entrance exams, but taking the SAT or ACT is still a good idea. Most schools still require it, and taking the test will give you an idea of your strengths and weaknesses in various subjects. Taking one of the tests more than once can help you gauge your progress in the subjects that give you the most trouble; it can also help you improve your score. College entrance exams might not provide a full representation of who you are as a student, but they can still help colleges and universities determine which students will do best academically—so study, seek the help of a tutor if you need it, and do your best.
The trend of test-optional colleges and universities is slowly gaining popularity—and as schools focus on a student’s whole history, college entrance exams may become less important. Still, it’s essential that students planning for college prepare themselves to take a college entrance exam. Even with a busy academic and extracurricular schedule, spending time on your future can be valuable—and that could mean studying for the SAT or ACT.