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Testing, based on fresh data

I reported that I was part of a major data collection effort between a group of independent consultants awhile back. The first part of the data is in! Let’s talk about testing.

I encourage all my students to test if they are up to the task. But should you test if nearly all the colleges are test-optional? The numbers bear out that testing matters-especially at the most selective level. At Carnegie Mellon (15%-School of Computer Science 7%, School of Drama, 4%), Brown (5%), Georgetown (12%), Johns Hopkins (6%), Washington University of St. Louis (13%), and all the Ivies (roughly 5%), acceptance rates continued to drop. Most admitted students did submit scores, and few test-optional, non-need applicants were admitted. Remember that a student’s GPA and test scores never guarantee admission in this most unpredictable tier of colleges.

At the highly-selective, as opposed to the most selective tier of colleges, non-need test-optional students who applied Early Decision had somewhat better success. One of my students whose numbers were below average for Tulane was admitted after changing her application to Early Decision II. ED is the most clear-cut way to demonstrate interest.

There are exceptions among highly-selective colleges (Tufts admitted 50% test-optionally). The good news, however, is at the large public universities and some liberal arts colleges. Roughly three-quarters of students applying to many of the large publics did not submit test scores, so 2022 applicants to selective colleges with a clearer degree of admissions predictability may not need to submit scores. I will likely recommend that they submit scores within the 50%-75% of suggested test scores for a particular university. Please reach out to me if you’d like a more nuanced discussion of this topic for your student.

I’ve always stressed that families should manage their expectations and not assume their students will beat the odds when they apply to colleges that deny over 75%. Whether or not students decide to submit scores, my goal is to create successful applicants. This year, with applications up dramatically, I will advise the majority of my students to avoid adding too many of these “most-selectives” to their lists. These schools are not “reaches,” but “unlikelies.” Every list needs to be balanced, and students who self-advocate and seize opportunities will make the most of their experience--at any college.


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