SAT: To take or not to take

All eight Ivy League schools and many other top 20 U.S. universities have already announced that they will be “Test Optional” for this 2020-2021 Admissions cycle. What does that mean for the rising senior students applying to universities this year? And the biggest question hanging on every student’s mind…Do I still need to take the SAT?

The simplest answer, perhaps to the dismay of many students, is YES. Although there are news stories almost every single day that major universities like the University of California schools, Ivy League universities, and Stanford have gone test-optional, it is important not to get carried away by these headlines.

As international students applying from Thailand, it is crucial for you to understand the actual details of these ‘Test Optional’ policies. In many cases, you will find that universities will still review your test scores if they are submitted alongside your application. These policies are unique to each institution, and therefore it is extremely important for you to look into the actual requirements laid out by the universities.

Let’s take a look at some of the ‘test optional’ policies announced by well-known universities”

Boston University:

Boston University will adopt a test optional policy for first-year applicants applying for fall 2021/spring 2022.

However, TOEFL or IELTS score is still required for international students


MIT has made the decision to no longer consider the SAT Subject Tests as part of the admissions process.

However, they will continue to require the SAT or the ACT, because their research has shown these tests, in combination with a student’s high school grades and coursework, are predictive of success in our challenging curriculum.

UC System (UC Berkeley, UCLA, etc.)

The University recognizes the challenges that students are facing due to the COVID-19 pandemic and, in response, UC is temporarily suspending the standardized test requirement for students applying for fall 2021 freshman admission only.

However, student can still take standardized tests (SAT or ACT) and send scores if they are able.

Additionally, this is not intended as an admissions policy shift but is rather a temporary accommodation driven by the current extraordinary circumstances. (what this means is that the UC system will likely resume some form of standardized testing, whether the SAT/ACT or their own testing in 2021 and beyond.)

It is important for both parents and students to recognize that these policies are changing rapidly during this COVID-19 pandemics. The ‘language’ that universities use in their ‘test optional’ policies often leads to even more confusion, especially for international students who are already facing various uncertainties from the pandemic.

Below is another example of five highly selective universities and their details of the ‘test-optional’ policies.

While most of these universities have announced that they will not require SAT or ACT, the language on their websites said otherwise: “happy to accept scores”, “will consider scores if submitted”, “expect test students if students are able to register”….all these are clear indicators that these ‘test optional’ universities still expect their best and most competitive students to submit their SAT or ACT scores.

The bottom line here is that you should take the SAT or ACT if possible. Having a good score will give you an advantage during the admissions process; and for international students applying to highly selective universities, every single factor in your application–the activities, school grades, essays, and standardized test scores–can make a difference between getting accepted or rejected!

Bonus recommendation! – If I’ve already taken the SAT, should I still submit my test scores or not?

The simple answer is that you should NOT send the test scores if your scores are LOWER than the university’s average (usually around 1300-1350). Any lower than that and your score might put you at a disadvantage. Additionally, if you have a near Perfect or Perfect GPA but your SAT scores show otherwise, you might want to consider not submitting the score in order to highlight your school grades instead.


CNBC: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/06/22/ivy-league-schools-will-not-require-standardized-testing-next- year.html


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