Most colleges and universities in the United States require that a student take the SAT or ACT tests to be considered for admission. Many students, mostly with perceived test taking anxieties, opt not to take them and apply to colleges that
drop the testing requirement. This usually means the student ends up applying to community college, the local state college, or one of the for-profit education programs expanding widely throughout the country. This decision may be costing a student an educational opportunity and in most cases costing the student financial aid as well.
According to FairTest.org there are over 830 four year colleges and universities that do not require a student to take the SAT or ACT test. Admissions at these schools are determined by the student’s grade point average (GPA) and class rank. A closer look at the list reveals that a large number of these schools are for-profit educational institutions that cannot provide substantial financial aid beyond what the student will qualify for under government grants and subsidized student loans. While these schools serve an important function I do not think they should be a student’s first choice for their education.
Another large number of schools on the list are state colleges and universities that do not require the submission of SAT or ACT test scores for admission “unless the student’s GPA and class rank do not meet the minimum requirements.” This means that if you were a bit of a slacker in high school, if you are smart and take the SAT or ACT test, you can still get accepted at these colleges based on your score. I have seen this happen on more than one occasion. A closer look at these same schools reveals that merit money at all of these schools is allocated based on the student’s class rank and SAT or ACT score. When it comes to allocating free money the schools no longer think the GPA is a valid measure of how the student will perform in college. Class rank and the test scores will determine the aid package; no test scores, no merit money.
Community colleges serve a very valuable niche in the education arena. As a lower cost alternative to four-year colleges and universities they often put a college education within reach of many families. However, due to their low cost, middle income families are likely to have to pay for the community colleges out of their own pocket as these schools typically rely on the grants and subsidized loans from federal and state sources. A talented student would often be better off financially attending a four-year college and receiving the aid available at those schools. Unfortunately by requiring the SAT or ACT tests many students do not avail themselves of this lower cost option. And many community colleges are requiring their own admissions tests absent the SAT or ACT test. Test anxiety or not you are still going to have to take a test.
The answer then is, yes, you need to take the SAT or ACT test. It is the only way to be admitted to the vast majority of colleges and universities in the United States. It is often the only way to receive money for college that is not solely based on a family’s need. Everyone dreads taking standardized tests. To deal with test anxiety the better option would be to take practice tests rather than forgo the test at all. A student should be encouraged to capitalize on the best educational opportunities available. A parent should receive all the financial aid they can muster based on a student’s achievement.