We called the admissions office at two test optional universities, Temple and George Washington, to explore how the test optional piece works in the application process. Temple University has some very specific guidelines and advice on when it would be advantageous for a student to not submit test scores. The admissions officer to whom I spoke told me that Temple is looking for students with a composite score of 25 or greater on the ACT, or a 550 or better equivalent (based on the old SAT) on each section of the new SAT. Students with less than those scores but with otherwise strong academic grades and records should consider not submitting scores. In lieu of test scores, those students must answer an additional four short essay questions.
What conclusions can we draw? First of all, it’s important for you to do your own research! Even though schools may have test optional policies, how they implement those policies differ. If we didn’t call Temple directly, we may have missed the fact that 4 additional essay questions were required. Also, it’s very important to understand the specific school’s philosophy towards the tests. GW was very clear that test scores were not a crucial part of the admissions process and that the high school transcript was way more important. Temple, on the other hand, was more neutral towards tests and gave us clear guidelines as to when a student should consider not submitting test scores.
In conclusion, we feel that you should still take the SAT and/or ACT. However, if you don’t do well on the SAT or ACT, test optional schools provide excellent options. Just remember to do your research by contacting the admissions offices to find out how these test optional schools implement their version of “test optional.”