Juniors: Should You Take the SAT or ACT This Year?
In years past, the vast majority of high school juniors planned on taking the SAT/ACT. However, with an increasing number of schools extending their test-optional admissions policies, some students may be wondering whether it is still worthwhile to study for these exams.
The short answer: it depends. Despite the increase in flexible testing policies, not all schools have announced they plan to waive testing requirements for the class of 2026. Until all colleges commit to a test-optional or test-blind policy this fall, many students will still need to keep test prep top of mind.
IvyWise college admissions experts Christine and Tiffany will be answering your most pressing testing questions in our webinar IvyWise Live: The Future of Standardized Testing February 8 at 8 pm ET. Register here to attend.
Here’s what to keep in mind when deciding whether or not to take the SAT or ACT this year.
Check the Policies of the Schools on Your Balanced College List
This is the most important step when deciding how to approach testing this spring and fall. See if any of the schools on your balanced college list have clarified their testing requirements for the fall. If not, you should continue to prep for the SAT or ACT when you can and find a time to register for these exams. Of course, you can adjust your list to include more schools that have already announced they will be test-optional for the fall if you’re uncomfortable with the prospect of sitting for these exams this year. But keep in mind policies are changing daily! A school that wasn’t test-optional today may be tomorrow. So continue to research the schools on your list and make a judgment call based on their requirements and your comfort level.
Some Colleges are Asking Students to Assume Testing Will be Required
Another thing to keep in mind is that while some schools are extending their test-optional policies, others are still on the fence about whether or not to require testing for the upcoming admissions cycle. For example, Princeton has stated that “As of right now, students who are thinking about applying for the Class of 2026 should do so assuming that testing will be required.” By preparing for the SAT or ACT, students can keep their options open for the future. Avoid having to skip out on applying to certain colleges that may otherwise be best-fit options because you don’t meet their testing requirements.
Test-Optional Doesn’t Mean Test-Blind
Test-optional and test-blind may sound similar, but they have very different meanings. Test-optional means that students do not need to submit a score to apply to a college. However, if an applicant does submit an SAT/ACT score, admissions officers can use this information to help them make an admissions decision. In contrast, test-blind describes an admissions process in which standardized testing scores will not be reviewed at all when college admissions officers evaluate applications – even if they are self-reported or provided via an official score report.
What does this mean for prospective college applicants? Most colleges that are adapting their testing policies are moving to test-optional processes, not test-blind. So they are looking at the SAT/ACT scores that are submitted. For students that have test scores within or above the middle 50% of admitted applicants at that school, submitting an SAT or ACT score could work in their favor throughout the admissions process.
Grades are Still Most Important
Most students and parents associate college admissions success with strong test scores. But, in reality, the most important piece that admissions officers evaluate is the transcript. How students perform every day in the classroom and the rigor of the classes they take is much more important than how they did on one test on a Saturday morning. If you choose to take the SAT or ACT this year, strike a balance between your test prep and your grades. Especially because many colleges will continue to be test-optional this fall, it’s incredibly important to have strong grades in challenging courses. Choose challenging, yet appropriate, courses for next fall that align with your interests and goals and continue to perform well in your current courses. And when you’re able, make time for test prep once you have an idea of when you can sit for the SAT or ACT if you choose to do so.
While there’s still a lot that remains unclear about test-optional policies in the future, making a plan for SAT or ACT prep can help you feel prepared for whatever decision comes your way. If you’re getting ready to take the SAT or ACT and looking for additional guidance, our team of tutors is here to help.