The hidden cost of test-optional admissions



Students wishing to be admitted without an ACT/SAT score can do so on the University of Iowa’s website, shown on this laptop.

Alyse Zuiderveen, Copy Editor

When colleges began to announce that they would be doing test-optional admissions through the fall of 2022, many students began to feel a rush of emotions. Was the time they spent preparing for the ACT necessary? How would this decision impact scholarship opportunities?

Students were not the only ones navigating these new changes, however. Counselors, advisors, parents and many more individuals began the process of adapting to yet another new normal–college admissions.

While test-optional admissions sound freeing, many do not realize that while a college may be labeled as test-optional, they may require ACT or SAT scores for specific programs or scholarships. Ellie Thomas, a counselor at PVHS, has found that this is the case with the University of Iowa, a school that many PV students choose to attend after graduation. “[A] student can apply test optional to the University of Iowa. However, if the student applies directly to the Tippie College of Business at the University of Iowa, an admission requirement for Tippie is an ACT score of 26,” she shared.

Many students, such as senior Lily Law, have experienced confusion as they work to understand the new standards for college admissions, “At first, I had taken the ACT as just a means to get into college, but then I found out that schools such as Iowa didn’t need it this year to get into the school but they were doing test-optional. Later I found the nursing program still separately required this test… after taking it [the ACT] on the morning of homecoming, I found it was no longer even needed to get into the nursing program. This was confusing as colleges continue to change their policies and mix up what is and what isn’t required,” she shared.

This begs the question–what can students do now? How can they navigate these confusing, uncharted waters?

Many students felt confused. They wondered if they should still take the ACT, how these changes would impact their ability to get scholarships and if they would be able to be admitted into their dream school. They were also curious as to what colleges would emphasize without an ACT score for admission. 

Thankfully, school counselors are prepared to guide students through the new admission process.

When it comes to deciding if a student should take the ACT, Thomas advises that students use Xello, a program students learn about in their Career and College Seminar classes, or college websites to find out what a school’s freshman profile is. This profile will allow them to compare their abilities and achievements with those of typical students at that school. She also advises calculating a student’s RAI score, which is comprised of a student’s GPA, number of core classes a student has taken and an ACT/SAT score, to determine if adding an ACT score would allow them to get into the school that they are applying to. If they already meet this requirement, adding an ACT score does not hurt a student and students can feel confident in submitting theirs. 

While admission into various schools may not require an ACT score, many scholarships do. Most schools will share if their scholarships require an ACT score or will clarify if having an ACT score will put students at an advantage to get scholarships. 

Without a submitted score, students will need to place emphasis on different parts of their college and scholarship applications. Thomas believes that GPA, course rigor, service learning opportunities, work experience and extracurricular involvement will become distinguishing factors for students when applying for college. She also shared that, “[a]pplication essays and personal statements give the student an opportunity to really show a school that they are more than their GPA.” 

While these changes may seem daunting at first, students can be confident in the expertise of Pleasant Valley’s counseling department to advise and direct them wisely.