My Experience Applying Test-Optional


Isabella Ernsberger, Reporter

As I started the college application process in the fall, I hesitated with the decision to send my SAT scores, or to opt-out. I feared that if I did send them, they would work against me, but I also feared that if I didn’t send my scores, my application would be swept aside and not even considered. Ultimately, I decided that my scores would not benefit me or my application, and I chose not to send them to any of the colleges I applied to. It’s thanks to that decision that I’m where I am now. 

I took the SAT in August. I didn’t study because I wanted to see what I would get without any preparation, and I knew that, if needed, retaking it was an option for me. After anticipating my results for a month, I discovered that I scored a 950; 520 in reading and writing, and 430 in math. Naturally, I was disheartened with my results. I knew that my top school, Butler University, had an SAT range that began at 1170, and that my chances of acceptance were very slim with what I had scored. I have never been a good test taker. Ever since middle school, no matter how hard I studied, or how much I worried about it, my score would rarely be satisfactory, which alarmed me because I was taught to believe that this test would determine my future. Retaking the SAT was an opportunity that was available to me, but I feared if I were to take it again, I would only wind up in the same place. This is when I began to seriously consider a test-optional application. 

I was applying to three schools, Butler University, Indiana University Bloomington, and IUPUI (Indiana University Purdue University Indianapolis), all of whom accepted test-optional applications. I had already planned to write an essay to accompany my application. I had chosen the prompt, “discuss an accomplishment, event, or realization that sparked a period of personal growth and a new understanding of yourself or others”, and wrote about my experience building a group from the ground up at Adams. The group, Passion Project, gave students the opportunity to speak on the issues they’re passionate about in an environment that supported them and wanted to hear what they had to say. My goal of this project was to give students a place to just simply be themselves, discuss freely, ask questions, and learn about, not only each other, but issues they may not have heard about before. This essay would provide more insight into who I was, not just as a student, but as a person. It showed what I stood for and what I would add to campus, if I were to be admitted. I realized that my essay would do more for me than any SAT score ever could, and that’s when I decided I would not send my scores to any college, and allow my application to speak for itself. 

In addition to my essay, I filled out all slots on the extracurricular portion of my application, and had two recommendation letters from my counselor and Mr. Kingston, a teacher I have aided for two years now. And even with all this, I was still hesitant to send an application without SAT scores. I truly believed I would get denied admission to every college I applied to just because I didn’t follow what was considered normal. Looking back, I had more going for me than I thought I did. Turns out taking that risk set me apart from other applicants to my benefit, as I was accepted into all three colleges, including my beloved Butler University.

Too much weight is put on SAT test scores. They don’t measure anything besides someone’s ability to take a test, and yet we are taught that our future relies on what we score. I really appreciated the opportunity to apply test-optional, because my results could have been way different if I were required to provide SAT scores. While I was deemed admissible when not sending scores, I could have been denied admission if my scores were considered- this just goes to show the irony of SAT test scores, and just how little they say about a person. 

If I had sent my test scores, I don’t think I would be in the position I’m in today. I have an admitted student visit to Butler in March and am hoping to be able to call it home come this fall.

I would advise anyone who is hesitant to include SAT scores in their application to really consider applying test-optional. Especially if test-taking isn’t a strong suit, or their scores don’t reflect them and their potential. Knowing that I was admitted to three universities based on my accomplishments rather than a test score makes my admittance that much more special and rewarding.  

I’ve never been one for taking risks, but my decision to not send my scores alongside my application proved to me that some risks are worth taking.