Last time I checked being test optional meant that students did not have to submit standardized test scores. And when families hear that a college is test blind, they assume that no standardized tests will be considered in the admissions process.
Yet a number of colleges are creating new loopholes which serve them rather than help students during a critical time. Students are caught off guard and they are now scrambling to figure out what to do.
Take for example MIT, which not only announced that it was going to be test optional for the coming admissions cycle but that it would no longer be evaluating Subject Tests in the admissions process. Bravo, right? Well, not really. Despite not requiring the SAT or ACT this year and no longer accepting Subject Tests permanently, MIT highly encourages students to list every single AP score they received on their application. So, Subject Tests are off-limits, but AP exams are expected by MIT. Fair? Hmm. I don't think so.
AP exams, especially this past May, were plagued with technical and scoring issues. And just as Subject Tests cater to and advantage students coming from well-resourced high schools and families, so too do AP exams. In the past, MIT has been notoriously focused on admitting students with perfect standardized test scores. To think they will reward any student who shares an AP score below a 5 this year seems highly unlikely.
What about the University of Michigan? Like most institutions, it seemed to adopt a test optional policy. But the language used is not as test optional-friendly and it doesn't go as far as most. In fact, the University of Michigan suggests to students that it can submit not only AP scores, but PSAT and Pre-ACT scores as well. It appears that the University of Michigan wants to get its hands on any score it can when in reality the PSAT and Pre-ACT were never intended to be seen or used by colleges.
And, finally, the University of California system is being sneaky in the face of being sued. Two weeks ago, a judge issued an injunction on the UC system requiring them to be test blind in their admissions process. This is a result of a lawsuit filed by students with disabilities and students coming from underrepresented backgrounds alleging that standardized tests create barriers to higher education. Especially in light of COVID-19, students from all walks of life and every part of the world are having difficulty finding a test site to take the SAT and ACT.
However, individual campuses, like UC Berkeley, indicate on their website that Subject Tests and AP exams are included in the evaluation process. If taking an SAT or ACT is nearly impossible in the state of California and all over the world, why would taking Subject Tests be any easier?
For the Class of 2021, focus on what you can control and what strengthens your application. While colleges want any test score they can get their hands on, the truth is that most colleges are test optional, and AP scores and Subject Tests are not required. As much as these colleges are hoping students will give them anything, they cannot give advantages to students with scores this year if they adopted a test optional policy. If test optional colleges give advantages to students with scores, they are going to be hit with something much bigger than an injunction.
I may only be 4'11". But I am mighty. And I won't let colleges get away with unfair practices.