Should You Submit Your SAT/ACT Scores to Test-Optional Colleges?

In recent years, many colleges and universities have adopted a test-optional policy, giving students the choice of whether or not to submit their SAT or ACT scores during the admissions process. This has left many students wondering whether it is in their best interest to submit their scores or to take advantage of the test-optional policy.

In this article, we will explore the factors to consider when making this decision and provide guidance to help you navigate this process effectively.

Understanding the General Rule of Thumb

The general rule of thumb when deciding whether to submit your SAT or ACT scores at a test-optional school is to consider your score in relation to the 50th percentile range. If your score falls above this range and you believe it will enhance your profile, it is generally advisable to submit it. However, there are a few caveats to this rule that we will delve into further.

Paying Attention to Score Breakdowns

One important factor to consider when deciding whether to submit your scores is the breakdown of your individual section scores. Regardless of your total score, if all of your score breakdowns begin with 7s for the SAT or 3s for the ACT, it may be beneficial to submit your scores. This demonstrates a consistently strong performance across different sections and can bolster your application.

Considering Percentile Ranges in Context

If your score falls between the 25th and 50th percentile ranges, it is essential to consider how it compares to your high school or educational environment. For instance, if your score is within the 25th and 50th percentile for a particular college but ranks in the top 75th percentile within your high school, it may be advantageous to submit your scores.

Admissions officers take into account the context of your background and educational experiences, and a strong performance within your school can highlight your academic achievements.

Factoring in Your Major Area

When deciding whether to submit your scores or consider a retest, it is important to take into account your intended major area of study. If you are planning to pursue a math-related major, submitting an SAT or ACT with a low math sub-score may not work in your favor.

In such cases, it might be worth considering whether another test attempt could yield a higher sub-score in your desired area of study.

Exploring Test-Optional Schools

To determine whether a college or university is test-optional, you can typically find this information on their official website. Alternatively, you can consult resources like, which provide a comprehensive list of test-optional schools.

Additionally, to gain insight into where your test scores fall within a specific institution, you can search for the common data set of your chosen college or university by simply googling “common data set” along with the name of the institution.

Considering UCs’ Test-Blind Policy

It is vital to note that the University of California (UC) system follows a test-blind policy. This means that SAT or ACT scores will not be considered for admissions purposes. However, they can still be submitted for course placement. If you are applying to a UC school, it is essential to understand this distinction and clarify whether your scores are required for any specific purposes.


In conclusion, the decision of whether to submit your SAT or ACT scores at a test-optional school requires careful consideration of various factors. By evaluating the percentile ranges, score breakdowns, major area, and examining the policies of individual institutions, you can make an informed choice. Remember, it is always recommended to seek guidance from college counselors or admissions professionals to ensure you choose the best strategy to strengthen your college application.

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