EARLY YEARS: Why optional isn’t always optional when it comes to college applications

National Test Prep Association expert explains why colleges place a high value on SAT and ACT scores
Experts recommend submitting test scores, visiting colleges and applying early
Published: Aug. 17, 2022 at 5:27 AM EDT
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ROANOKE, Va. (WDBJ) - Preparing for college means more time hitting the books, as students gear up for the SAT and ACT.

But you might wonder, is it worth it?

“Every single large-scale study that’s ever been conducted on the SAT and ACT has shown that they improve a student’s chances of success in college,” says David Blobaum with the National Test Prep Association.

Along with finalizing their college wish lists, Blobaum says seniors need to look at testing averages at those schools.

“For seniors right now, they should really be looking at what the scores are that they have right now, and then looking at their target schools and saying, what is that average SAT or ACT score at their target school,” says Blobaum.

Most schools will give you a range.

“So, let’s say a school, their average range is 1200 to a 1300. So these are 25th percentile of admitted students to the 75th percentile of admitted students,” says Blobaum.

In this scenario, Blobaum says an SAT score above 1250 will help you. That’s because it would boost the school’s average SAT score.

Below 1250 would hurt your chances.

“However, even if it’s below the 50th percentile, If you’re between the 25th and 50th percentile, still submit your score,” says Blobaum.

There’s another key score applicants might not be aware of-- a score for demonstrated interest.

“They’re literally going to give students a score. Hey, this student got a 4 out of 5 on demonstrated interest. If we don’t complete that optional essay, that’s a signal to the school that you’re really not that interested in it, the school,” says Blobaum.

The key takeaway here for students: submit everything you can.

“There’s a saying in college admissions that nothing is optional. So, if a college has an optional supplemental essay, it’s not optional,” says Blobaum.

One final point, Blobaum adds, is schools only want to give an acceptance letter to students who will actually enroll. If your student’s heart is set on one particular school, he or she needs to let them know.

“So, the more you can demonstrate this is my top school, I will go here if you give me an acceptance letter, the higher your admission chances,” says Blobaum.

Blobaum adds the earlier students take the SAT and ACT the better, before those early application deadlines.

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