Should Your College-Bound Student Submit an SAT Score, Even If It’s Not Required?

Just when you thought college admissions couldn't get more confusing, you have to decide to include test scores or not. Here's what to consider.

If prepping and sitting for the SAT wasn’t stressful enough, high school students now have a new question to answer: should they even include the score in a college application at all?

Many Michigan colleges have dropped the requirement of the test this year, while others have announced convoluted statements on the importance of including test scores without requiring them.

The confusing messaging surrounding the tests have left many college-bound students and their families stressed, says Nikki Page, the program director at EnACT Your Future, a test-prep organization based in Detroit that focuses on helping disadvantaged high schoolers.

“We all know the college admissions process has been completely upended,” says Page. “Students used to know exactly what to do, and the benchmarks they needed to hit, but now the question has become ‘How do I position myself to still be competitive?’ Colleges don’t even know.”

“Students are unclear what to prioritize and articulate themselves in a way that makes them competitive, while at the same time, they’re just trying to manage being a senior,” she adds.

Will students be required to take the SAT?

In short, students are required to take the SAT, but there’s some flexibility in both how schools are impacted and when students can take the test this year.

“The way Michigan works is the state requires students to take the SAT as an assessment for the state,” Page says. “So, students still have to take it, but this year Michigan is waiving the impact on school performance and the test dates are flexible.”

Because of the coronavirus pandemic, the Michigan Department of Education postponed Spring 2020 testing but still require 12th grade students to take the test, with the essay in the fall of 2020 on Sept. 23, Oct. 14 and/or Oct. 27.

While students are required to take the test, whether or a student should include their scores in a college application is a bit more complicated.

“The college entry process is really up in the air right now,” Page says. “Typically, you have your transcripts, essays, extracurricular and SAT or ACT, but that’s all been thrown out of the window since many extracurriculars were canceled and the AP Exams were postponed or canceled, so (students are) missing a lot of important information.”

Page adds it’s “key for students to furnish any information they can within their control” and that can come in the form of standardized test scores.

Of course, if a student has been severely impacted by COVID-19 and their test scores suffered as a result, it may be better to explain the situation in the essay portion of the exam.

This year, the Common App even has a specific essay question to allow students to specifically explain the pandemic’s impact on them personally.

Tips for getting the best score possible

In year’s past, students had months to prep for the SAT but this year’s incoming seniors didn’t have that privilege and it’s difficult for them to catch up at this point.

“It’s very challenging to grow any significant amount in shorter than a two-month period without consistent practice – it’s about long-term learning and consistent practice over time,” Page says. “I don’t know if I recommend any really intense practice at this point, but there are eight or so free practice tests on the college board. It’s a three-hour test, so sit down and get familiar with the mechanics of the test and learn how you need to move through it.”

Instead of intensive prep, she suggests students “take the test, grade it, and see where (they) can improve — prioritize those questions where you know you can do well.”

And, at the end of the day, remember that colleges across the board have said including or not including the scores will not impact a student’s chance of admission.

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