An increasing number of high-schoolers are choosing to take the SAT or ACT because of a surge in competition for admission. The fact that many colleges have announced that they are going test-optional is giving students who are willing to take the test a golden opportunity to stand out against their peers.
Students in the high school class of 2022 took the SAT 1.7 million times, up by over 200K students from the previous year. Students in the same class took the ACT over 2.71 million times, which was again an increase over the previous year.
Students who are gearing up for college applications said that they are choosing to take the SAT or ACT in order to gain an advantage in an admissions landscape that was upended when most colleges chose to make the tests optional due to the coranavirus pandemic.
The flip side of the new test-optional dynamic is that students who are applying and not submitting scores generally aren’t getting into the colleges of their choice. A current Biltmore Tutoring student said, “If I don’t submit a score to UNC, and the other kids in my class do, you can guess who’s getting in and who’s not.” And he’s right. After schools adopted test-optional policies (in part because many students were unable to find test centers that allowed them to take the SAT or ACT), applications to selective colleges skyrocketed and acceptance rates hit record lows. Harvard University’s acceptance rate, for instance, dropped to just 3.2%. Northeastern University, in Boston, saw their acceptance rate drop from 18% to just 6.7%!
Three other factors to consider are these. First, most students (83%, according to a 2021 College Board survey) want to take a standardized test to see where they stack up against their competition. Most students who are in the 50th-75th percentile of accepted students will then submit their score along with their application — because colleges know that students who don’t submit a score are generally low scorers. Second, most of the schools on a student’s college list grant merit-based scholarships based exclusively on standardized test scores. In other words, prepping for the SAT or the ACT can pay for itself many times over (one Biltmore Tutoring student received offers of over $1M in total from the seven schools that she applied to in 2021). Third, even if a student gains acceptance and doesn’t submit a score, they may be required to then submit an SAT or ACT score to the university to avoid having to take zero-level remedial Math and English courses — for no credit — during their first year.
Bottom line, our best advice is to prepare for the SAT or the ACT, prepare a well-considered college list, and submit your test scores. Those who don’t are often left scrambling after their senior year.