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Should I Go For Test-Optional Option in 2021 Admissions Cycle?

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By Hubert Ho | Head of Admissions Consulting Services, Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions

In recent months, the World’s economy has been hit by the COVID-19 badly and it has also affected the standardized test schedules. There was ZERO tests conducted for the first half of 2020. That makes our Rising Seniors with fewer test attempts and most likely affecting the original application timeline as well. In the light of this matter, Cornell is the first Ivy League school to offer test-optional option in 2021 admissions cycle for its potential applicants. We are expecting more colleges will follow this action. However, is test-optional really good for you as a Rising Senior (Grade 11)?

Game Rule on Standardized Tests Before COVID-19

According to the research conducted by College Board, 2 out of 3 students can get a better SAT result in their second attempt. Due to this phenomenon, majority of the selective colleges have “Super Score” policy to help the candidates pick their best Verbal score and best Math score in different attempts in order to see their full potential. It makes taking at least 2-3 attempts of the SAT as a hidden game rule for the standardized test. From our data for the past 3 years, we can also see that students would like to take at least 3 times of the SAT and the ACT to boost up their scores and normally they tend to take the SAT and the ACT in Grade 10 for one attempt and in Grade 11 for two attempts.

Impact on Standardized Tests After COVID-19

As mentioned before, there was no standardized tests at all in the first half of 2020. It has already affected the application timeline for a lot of students. The earliest SAT and ACT test will be in August and this date is so close to the deadline of the Early Decision (ED) application. Although the College Board has taken action trying to relieve the students’ and parents’ panic and concern, it is already too late to fix the problem. Colleges started to call for a total admissions reform and standardized tests (i.e. The SAT and the ACT) has become the core of the typhoon. It has been a perfect moment for all colleges to discuss about the fairness of these “controversial” standardized tests again and they tend to fade out them in the long run. University of California (UC) starts the research the new admissions method and will try to fade out standardized tests in 4-year time. We can see the “absolute” role of the standardized tests is shaken now.

Impact on 2021 Admissions Cycle

Due to the current situation, we are expecting to be very competitive and chaotic for selective colleges in 2021 admissions cycle. As the colleges offer test-optional application for rising seniors, there is no doubt attracting some un-qualified applicants to try catching the hot bun from chaos. It indirectly increases the number of applications per college as well as the workload of the admissions committee (adcom). They will spend less time to review each application and it is very important for applicants to have a stunning attribute catch the adcom’s eyeball.

Next Step for Students and Parents

For our rising seniors, it is not a wise choice for them to give up taking the SAT or the ACT as it can be a fast and easy filter for the adcom to pick up the review process for your application. There will be no absolute disadvantage if you submit your standardized test scores. Since the pandemics situation is improving, it will be a wise choice for students and parents to start re-structuring the upcoming admissions strategy, not only the standardized test timeline but also the overall student’s profile. As students, you will need to really understand yourself from inside out and ready to present your best self to the adcom. Please be expected it will be a tough one for 2021 admissions cycle.

We, as independent education counselors (IECs), are always here standing by to offer extra help to your upcoming admissions journey!

Mr. Hubert Ho

Head of Admissions Consulting Services, Kaplan Test Prep and Admissions

Associate Member of IECA, Member of NACAC and AEE

MCom (Finance), UNSW

BCom (Management & Marketing), University of Wollongong

 

  • 10 years+ of experience in education industry
  • Proven track record helping students gain admission to US prestigious colleges including Yale University, Stanford University, Cornell University, UCLA, UC-Berkeley, New York University, Boston University

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