What Does Test Optional Mean for the Class of 2021
When the UCs announced that they would be making standardized testing optional for
the next two years, we’re sure some of you may have breathed a sigh of relief. For those of you who have already prepared and taken an exam, you might be concerned that your hard-earned score won’t be viewed or valued in the same way as before.
This year has been unique for many reasons, and the new strategies this development requires are no different. As always, we are here to answer all your questions and concerns.
To begin, the UCs will still be looking to see if you have a test score. Test optional is not
the same as test blind, which means that whether or not you have a score will be noted for the Class of 2021 and 2022. Beginning with the Class of 2023, the UC system will be test blind for at least five years, which means they will not be looking at a score at all, and it cannot factor into your decision.
Though a standardized test is not a requirement currently, it can still play an
important role in your admissions decision, and because of that, it’s important to seriously
consider whether or not you should be taking and submitting a test score.
When making this decision, the first step is taking a holistic review of yourself both as an
individual and as an applicant. What makes the most sense considering your GPA,
extracurriculars, leadership profile, rigor of classes, and potential weaknesses? In other words, what is your personal competitive advantage as an applicant?
The UC application process is unique from other universities in that they do not accept any letters of recommendation, so your teachers, counselor and anyone who knows you personally will not be able to vouch for your intelligence or test taking ability. Without a standardized test score, your grades, extracurriculars and essays will be representing your abilities on their own.
For some who struggle with test taking, it may be an advantage to dedicate the time you would otherwise use for test prep towards boosting your gpa or engaging in a unique extracurricular. However, the ACT and SAT are valuable tools that can potentially give you a big advantage and shouldn’t be disregarded lightly.
In lieu of a score, your application must otherwise define what makes you a competitive
and qualified prospective student, whatever that may be for you individually. As the system is
test optional, the admissions readers will be scrutinizing the rest of your application even more closely if you don’t take a standardized test. It’s important that you use that opportunity to stand out in distinctive ways from other applicants. When compared to other applicants who may have similar profiles, grades, or extracurriculars, how are you going to stand out in contrast to students who submitted a test score?
Because it isn’t a simple decision, it’s important to go over your testing and application
options with an expert, sooner rather than later. You shouldn’t be examining your test taking
abilities on their own, but rather looking at your profile, resume, and application as a whole to come to the decision that is going to make you look your very best to the UC admissions
A standardized test score has never been the only or the most important qualifier for admissions to these universities, and so deciding whether or not to submit a test score will not be the determining factor in your admissions decision. Your UC readers will be examining many different elements of your application, and at the end of the day, a standardized test score is only one of those elements. At Future Focused, we are committed to viewing you and your application holistically and helping you make multifaceted decisions based on the most up to date information.