Do your kids still need to take the Sat/ACT?

By Erik Klass

First of all, and most importantly, I hope everyone is healthy and keeping safe. As you may have heard, an increasing number of colleges are changing their admission requirements to “test optional” (regarding the SAT/ACT). Many of our clients have been asking about how this may impact their own SAT/ACT planning. I hope the following information answers the common questions.

Do I have to take the SAT/ACT?
Many colleges, including the UC schools, are now making the SAT/ACT optional for fall 2021 applicants (current high school juniors). I suspect many other colleges will follow suit. However, be careful: as of this writing, most colleges still require one of the standardized tests. My advice: unless you are sure all of your target colleges will go test-optional (which, I admit, is hard to figure out while things are still changing quickly), I think you should plan to take one of the tests.

Should I take the SAT/ACT, even if all of my target schools are test-optional?
This is a very different, and I think more important, question. Keep in mind, “test-optional” does not mean “test-not-considered.” There are some students who should definitely plan to take the test, even if they are 100% sure all of their target schools are test-optional. These students fall into two (overlapping) groups: (1) If your GPA and/or “extracurriculars” are so-so, the SAT/ACT remains a viable way to improve your college resume. Data we have from test-optional schools prior to COVID-19 suggest that these schools still prefer students to take the tests. (2) If you’ve been working through a tutoring program and have shown significant improvement on practice tests, you should probably take the test. You should definitely plan to take the test if your practice test scores paint a rosier academic picture than your GPA/extracurriculars alone.

Keep in mind, I run a tutoring company. I wanted to see if college counselors had similar recommendations. After talking to a number of them, it’s fairly unanimous: most students should plan to take the test. Linda Dennis ( states: “I want all of my students to take the tests . . . A good score may open the door to some otherwise reach schools. I want my clients to have scores to present in a world of test-optional applicants.” Alexandra Dumas Rhodes ( states: “I am recommending everyone take the SAT or ACT who was already going to take it. . . . try to stay the course.” But she states: “only submit if you have a good score (for that college).” In other words, the SAT/ACT has suddenly become a unique opportunity, assuming of course that the student’s score is “good” (relative to selected colleges’ average scores).

So who should consider skipping the test?
A short answer: If you’ve barely started SAT/ACT tutoring (or haven’t started at all), if you have an exemplary GPA and wide-ranging extracurriculars, and if you’re only applying to test-optional schools, you might consider sitting this one out.

So again, for most students, my advice is to take the SAT or ACT (either over the summer or in the fall, or both). Because so many students will not be submitting scores, and because much of the school year is being lost to COVID-19, I think the tests may be more important now more than ever before.

Erik Klass is the owner of KlassTutoring