Update on Test-optional Colleges

Inside Higher Ed’s Scott Jaschik, wrote an interesting piece this morning about the trend of test-optional college admissions we’ve seen through the pandemic.

Full article here (requires login)

The Cliff’s Notes version is that test-optional is gaining momentum, not slowing down. “Many Big 10 and Big 12 institutions also have pilot test optional policies, but three in the Big 10 and at least three in the Big 12 have made a permanent change to test optional admissions while the rest are continuing a pilot of the policy for additional years while they assess.”

If not a test, then what? SAT, ACT, and CLT are ways a homeschool family can “justify” a student’s grades and squash the homeschooling parent’s fears appearing bias on their teen’s transcript. But, the elimination of these tests at competitive colleges does mean the student has to bring something else to the table.

“Counting individual and private colleges, the National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest) said that nearly 80 percent of four-year colleges will not require the SAT or ACT for admissions this year. (That includes colleges that have simply extended test optional for another year, as well as those that have made permanent decisions.)”

Policy, when implemented at a state level, impacts a state’s entire community college system an public universities- so thousands of colleges.

IOWA: The Iowa Board of Regents this month voted to become test optional, permanently. That means Iowa State University, the University of Iowa and the University of Northern Iowa will no longer require the SAT or ACT for admissions.

COLORADO: Governor Jared Polis signed legislation in May to make all the state’s public colleges and universities test optional in admissions. Previously, Colorado had a state requirement that all applicants submit ACT or SAT scores.

ILLIONIS: Governor J. B. Pritzker signed legislation to require all public colleges and universities in the state to offer test-optional admissions.

MONTANA: the board of the Montana University System voted to make SAT and ACT scores optional, permanently—except ACT scores will be required for honors scholarships.

WASHINGTON: all the public four-year colleges decided to move to test optional.

CALIFORNIA: vote coming in March for the California State University system (the largest four-year system in the country), and the University of California system already agreed to make all campuses test blind (meaning SAT and ACT scores will not be looked at in making admissions decisions).

Every college in the country that is currently test-optional (about 1,800) – see list

Homeschooling for College Credit

Unlike public and private schools, homeschooling parents sometimes struggle with demonstrating or validating their teen’s academic record. In my experience, homeschooling parents rarely inflate grades or embellish transcripts, but we also often question our own ability to present our teen’s grades fairly or accurately.

Bringing college credit into your homeschool is a great way to underscore your teen’s academic ability and aptitude for college success. If your teen is applying to a competitive college and won’t submit an ACT/SAT/CLT score, here are 3 other ways to strengthen their application.

  1. In states with free or reduced tuition for high school students, taking college classes through a local college is an excellent way to demonstrate academic rigor without significant costs. Credits and grades earned this way require disclosure, so poor grades will make their way into the application too. My recommendation is to choose 1 course and work hard. If the semester goes well, you can expand the college schedule the following semester.
  2. If you’re genuinely concerned about your teen’s ability to handle college-level work, try the Arizona State University’s Universal Learner program. This open enrollment program allows teens of any state to register and take a course for only $25. If your teen does well, you can pay $400 to convert their work to “real” college credit on an ASU transcript. If they don’t do well, you don’t pay $400 and you don’t convert to college credit. This grade protection feature means your teen doesn’t have to disclose the grade/credit unless you’ve paid to convert it.
  3. Advanced Placement tests are still a typical way for students to demonstrate exceptional mastery of a subject. Be aware that AP exam scores are only “potential” college credit, and while homeschoolers can take these tests, it’s far from easy to find high schools offering the exam and allowing you to participate. It’s also unfortunate that the window closes for parents if they miss the very very early sign up period each fall.

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Executive Director of Homeschooling for College Credit