On May 7, the University of Wisconsin Board of Regents approved a new “test optional” policy for 12 of the 13 UW System campuses. We did a FB Live video regarding this announcement on May 8. You can view it here. The University of Wisconsin-Madison, the state’s flagship university, will still require ACT or SAT scores as part of college applications. For all other UW System schools, the class of 2021 and 2022 will not be required to submit an ACT or SAT score as part of the freshman application. Here are answers to common questions you may have about this announcement.
Do I still have to take the ACT with all other juniors next March?
Yes. As of now, the state-mandated ACT exam will be administered to all Wisconsin public high school juniors on March 9th, 2021 and is required.
Should I still prepare to do my best on the ACT or SAT? What importance does it have?
Yes. Standardized test scores (ACT or SAT) remain one of the top three criteria for the majority of colleges in the United States. For the University of Wisconsin-Madison and the majority of colleges beyond the UW System, a strong score is an essential piece of your application. Most sophomores and juniors do not yet know the complete list of colleges to which they’ll apply. Ensure you’re fully prepared and have the greatest number of options available to you when it’s time to complete college applications by earning your strongest possible ACT or SAT scores. Proven ACT Test Prep programs can help, or you can prep on your own.
What does “test optional” really mean?
Test optional simply means that you have the option of submitting an ACT/SAT score. You CAN submit ACT or SAT scores. It is not required, and by not submitting a score, you won’t decrease your chances of admission.
What if I have a good ACT score? Will they just ignore it?
Not at all. You’ll still be rewarded for a strong ACT/SAT score if you submit it as part of your application. Test optional does not mean “test blind”.
Should I still submit my ACT or SAT score to a test optional school?
The answer is sometimes. It depends. For insight specific to your situation, schedule a free consult anytime. In general, for “test optional” schools, you should submit your score if it will improve your chances for admission and/or merit aid. Think of your college application as a portfolio that tells the story of you. If your GPA is on the low end of the school’s average GPA for admitted students, an ACT or SAT score that falls within the school’s “middle 50% range” for admitted students could help. You can find the “middle 50% ACT range” on a college’s website or use a site such as collegedata.com to find this. Your score should fall within this range, and ideally toward the higher end of that range. Other factors such as cumulative GPA and extracurriculars can impact the score you may need for your best chance of acceptance.
What about the impact of an ACT or SAT score on scholarships and merit aid?
Many colleges and universities reward strong academic performance with merit aid scholarships. Of the factors used to determine awards, the two most common are your cumulative GPA and ACT/SAT score. In many cases, a score beyond what you “need to get in” can dramatically increase your scholarship, and that extra effort and even expense to prep can make a big difference in which schools are affordable. Since merit aid policies vary greatly, you may wish to contact the admissions or financial aid office of any test optional schools on your list to know if ACT/SAT will or will not be used for awarding merit scholarships.
I still have questions about ACT scores, SAT scores and college admissions. How can I get answers?
We’re always here to help. Email Tom Kleese with questions, call Tom directly at 608-553-3445 or schedule a free consult. Freshman, sophomore or junior year is a great time to come in, get your key college questions answered and develop a plan for achieving your college goals.
ACT Scores and Merit Aid Payback. One graphic. Two compelling conclusions.
ACT Scores and Merit Aid Conclusion #1: Sometimes one more point on the ACT CAN make a difference. More points = more better.
ACT Scores and Merit Aid Conclusion #2: If you’re not already considering schools outside the UW System, maybe you should be.
In my view there are a few truly beautiful things in life. Sunsets, rainbows and vast mountain ranges come to mind. Toward the top of my list of beautiful things are graphics like this one about ACT scores and merit aid. It’s stunningly compelling. I’m a college data geek, and I spend countless hours pondering things like this. There are so many insights to be gained from it. The families I’ve shared it with usually respond with wide-eyed amazement and a “wow…”.
Conclusions About ACT Scores and Merit Aid Opportunities
When you’re deciding whether to invest time, energy and money on ACT Test Prep, you want to know if it’s worth it. There are two key reasons to boost your ACT score: One, to “get in”. Two, to get money.
It’s not usually easy to determine what college will cost you. More schools are now making cost a bit more transparent by making merit aid (sometimes called merit-based scholarships) publicly available online. All colleges have a net-price calculator on their website, but most don’t ask for academic information that could impact your score. Some schools post net-price calculators on their sites where you can put in personal information and get an estimate of the price you’d pay.
University of Alabama
We used merit-based scholarship information available on a few school websites to build our infographic. Here are a few key insights:
Holy cow! At the University of Alabama and the University of Mississippi, every single ACT point gained from 27-32 earns you more money!
Wow, at some schools, merit aid scholarships start in the low 20s for ACT scores.
Zowie! With a 28 on my ACT, Minnesota is actually more expensive for me than KU or Ole Miss.
Man, with a 30 on my ACT, I’d pay the same at KU as I would at UW-Madison. And Alabama or Ole Miss is actually less expensive.
Holy Toledo! If I can earn a 32 on my ACT, tuition & fees at Ole Miss are FREE, and Alabama’s next to nothing!
Wow, depending on ACT scores, there are private schools out there where merit aid really helps bring the cost at least somewhat closer to tuition for Minnesota or Wisconsin.
University of Mississippi
Granted these are only a few schools, and perhaps you’re not interested in any of them. But if this is the case for just a sampling, what about colleges you’re interested in?
Conclusions About In-State versus Out-of-State Tuition
Here’s where things get interesting. We’ve all heard someone scoff, “What fool would ever pay out-of-state tuition?” I would, if I could get it for less than I could while attending an in-state school and/or if that school was the best fit for my child. In other words, based on my personal criteria, I’m going to make an informed decision based on what I feel is the best VALUE, the best CHOICE FOR ME. That is what an informed College Search process SHOULD BE about.
Here are a few compelling conclusions from the infographic:
Holy cow! Depending on your ACT and GPA, going out of state may actually be cheaper!
Man, with a 30 on my ACT, admission to UW-Madison may not be a lock, but Alabama or Ole Miss would be less expensive anyway.
Hmmmmm, the SEC delivers as much athletic pageantry as the Big 10. And it may deliver a quality education for a great value, too.
The point is, before you make assumptions, do your homework.
Working With a Professional College Planner Can Pay Off
University of Kansas
I’m passionate about helping students and families explore and effectively weigh their options once they’re armed with correct and complete information. Nothing pleases me more than helping a student find some great options they never knew existed or were previously unlikely to add to their list.
There’s a version of this graphic for each and every student, based on the schools YOU want to put on the list and the academic achievements you’ve earned. This is exactly the type of work we do as part of our College Search program. It’s not always about getting in. Sometimes it’s about saving money. A professional college counselor like OnCampus College Planning has the experience and expertise to help you discover hidden gems and high-value colleges that could reward you financially for your achievements.