BERNARDSVILLE, NJ - Let’s correct the myths that are buzzing around the academic community regarding the use of SAT and ACT scores with the college admissions process. 

TAPinto sat with David Blobaum, co-founder of Summit Prep, to discuss why SAT and ACT testing is not optional.

“If students want an equal chance at admissions, for most students, they are not optional," said Blobaum. "If they do become optional, that can present equity issues. There have been so many misconceptions lately about colleges going test optional."

Sign Up for Bernardsville & Bedminster Newsletter
Our newsletter delivers the local news that you can trust.

There will be admission equity issues if SAT and ACT become optional. What does that mean?

"Just to simplify college admissions -- about one third of your application is going to be your grades, about one third of the application is your SAT the ACT scores, and one third is everything else -- so, that is your essays, your recommendations, your extracurricular, etc. So. if you don't submit your SAT and ACT, you have to have something that is filling that gap. It's risky," said Blobaum.

"If you have a school that's telling you, these scores are optional, they're telling you, 'we want to see them, but you have the choice not to submit them.' So, all things being equal, if you're not submitting scores, you're at a disadvantage. Whereas, if you are submitting scores, especially if they're good, that certainly gives you an advantage,” he said.

Why are the ACT and SAT tests a good indicator of success in college?

"Those students by and large who do really well on the test, especially when it's paired with good grades, they're very likely to do well in college. Those students with those great grades who didn’t score as well with SAT and ACT, we actually look at the data, they usually under perform at colleges," said Blobaum. -- "The SAT and ACT scores, when paired with high school grades, are a good predictor of how well a student will succeed in college. You want to be going into schools that you're going to be succeeding at, because that helps you to succeed throughout life."

So where's the frustration coming from? Kids are not performing well on the tests, even though their grades show otherwise.

"There is a justifiable frustration about the college admissions process," said Blobaum. "It's a ‘behind closed doors’ process with really no transparency around that," he said. "That’s always going to be anxiety provoking when you can't see how the decisions are made. -- I think it also creates more stress and a feeling that these tests are unfair because there's such a mismatch between grades and the SAT score so often. -- You can have a straight A student who gets a 34 on the ACT, and you can have a straight A student who gets a 20 on the ACT. That doesn't actually mean that the ACT isn't a good measure; it essentially means that the grades weren't a good measure since there is so much variability in the courses that students take, the rigor of their courses, and the rigor of the over 40,000 high schools in the U.S."

"Without an ACT and SAT score -- that top school has no idea if they are actually prepared," said Blobaum. 

What is driving schools to go test optional?

"What's driving the schools is their ranking. They all want to be ranked as high as possible. Some of the things that go into the ranking are what percent of their students they admit. That's one of the things that's driving test optional admissions, because they know that if they become test optional, more students are going to apply," said Blobaum. "Well, what happens when more students apply? They accept the same number of students they were going to anyway. So, if you double the number of applicants, but accept the same number, your rating is going to skyrocket. So that's one of the things driving test optional admissions, but they're not trying to admit those students without test scores. They're trying to deny them to get their rankings up."

How does demonstrated interest impact college acceptance?

"Colleges are getting back to demonstrated interest," said Blobaum. "Let's say, you give 1000 students an offer letter, 'You're admitted,' zero of those students then say, 'Okay, now I accept, and I'm going to actually go to your school.' If zero students say that, you have a 0% yield rate, and you’re down in the rankings."

"What you want to know is that if you give 1000 acceptance letters, you want all 1000 of them to say yes to you. Because then you have a 100% yield rate -- that's what the yield rate is. So what you want to do is to give acceptance letters to the students that you know will accept.

"So how do you do that? You want to be as sure as possible that the students will commit to your school if given an acceptance letter. So, when you're on their mailing list, they track if you open your emails from them. How quickly did you open their email? Did you click on links in the email? They know that most engaged students who demonstrate interest are more likely to enroll if given an acceptance.

"They care so much about that yield because it impacts their rankings. It's another thing that has driven early decision," said Blobaum.

Blobaum added, "You do see that students who didn't submit scores, they tend to get a significantly lower GPA in college, and they tend to have higher dropout rates. And what can be so devastating about that is that the average college dropout is in default on their student loans from their unfinished degree.”

Why is going to a school that is the right fit so important? 

"Whatever school you go to, you want to be able to succeed, and that's what's best for the student," said Blobaum. 

"If you don't get those SAT and ACT scores, you lose a lot of valuable information. --- That's also why I think SAT and ACT scores are so important -- we want to make sure that we're getting a good fit that helps students succeed."

Related Article:Increasingly Competitive College AdmissionsTest-Optional Admission SecretsThe SAT & ACT Help the World

Works cited: Buckley, J., Letukas, L., & Wildavsky, B. (2018). Measuring success: Testing, grades, and the future of college admissions. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press.