All eight Ivy Leagues and many top tier universities are going SAT optional this year due to the pandemic. In today's video we'll cover how this is going to affect college admissions overall, who can benefit from this policy change, and what you should do to make your application stand out.
How will this affect college admissions overall this year?
There was a case study done by professor Robinson and professor Monks at a liberal arts college Mount Holyoke. When this college suddenly changed to an SAT optional policy from an SAT mandatory policy back in the early 2000s, many results were observed.
These were two of them: (1) the number of applicants overall increased; (2) the number of racial diversity in the applicants increased overall as well.
We expect a similar phenomenon to happen again this year. The SAT optional policy will bring in many more applicants, especially those that are racially and socioeconomically diverse. Therefore in short, more people will be applying to Ivy Leagues and top universities, making this year more difficult and fierce to get into than actually being easier to get into.
Who can benefit from the SAT optional policy?
(1) First are those who are getting a great GPA from prestigious high schools, the high schools that usually send many of their seniors off to Ivy leagues. Usually, an SAT score is used to compare students’ academic abilities on an even playing field. Because in some high schools it's much harder to get a 4.0 GPA because of the curriculum than at other high schools. Therefore, getting a high SAT score generally helps those students who go to a high school that doesn't generally send many students off to an Ivy League. This is because a high SAT score can demonstrate academic abilities when a 4.0 GPA at these high schools may not be able to do that alone. But if you are from a renowned high school that sends many of its students to Ivy Leagues, then a high GPA alone can signal to admissions officers that you do have the academic strength to succeed in their institutions, so the SAT optional policy will benefit you because you don't have to take the SAT and can focus on other components of your application.
(2) Second are those who have great extracurricular activities but who may not be the best test takers. When the SAT is mandatory, no matter how exceptional your extracurricular activities are, if you have a low SAT score, it's unlikely that you would get into an Ivy League or a top-tier university just with those extracurricular alone. In part because they're not sure if you can handle the rigorous curriculum at their university and also because a low SAT score affects the school's overall average SAT score which then leads to a decrease in competitiveness in their ranking. So for this year, if your strengths are in your extracurricular and you have a low SAT score, then this year you don't have to take it because it's optional for everyone.
(3) Third, students who have excellent relationships with their teachers can benefit from the SAT optional policy. Without the SAT score, college admissions officers need to rely heavily on GPA and on letters of recommendations to examine your academic abilities. Therefore if you have excellent relationships with your teachers they can write you the highest quality letter of recommendation, one that separates you from your other classmates.
(4) Fourth are students with excellent writing skills. Your personal essay serves two main purposes. first, it shows your personality. It gives admissions officers something to see and it gives you a voice rather than you just being your scores. But it also serves to prove how well you can write. College courses have an immense amount of writing and writing well can show them that you're academically prepared for the courses that you're going to take.
How can you prepare for your college admissions this year?
First and foremost is do everything you can to get a good GPA this year. Without the SAT, your GPA is the single most important component to show that you have academic strength. So it is worth emphasizing: you need a good GPA this year.
Second, this year more than ever you need to have a good relationship with your teacher. Quite often a similar number of students get into Ivy League from the same high schools each year. That means if 30 students got into an Ivy League from your high school last year, it's likely that about 30 a little more a little less will get in this year as well. So inevitably you have to be competitive within your internal competition at your high school as well. In past years when guidance counselors are writing your letters of recommendation, they have your GPA and your SAT scores to examine you and your peers. But this year if you're not taking the SAT, then your guidance counselor only has your GPA and your internal reputation to go off of. Therefore, having great relationships with your teachers will boost your letters from your guidance counselor as well.
Third is you should write excellent application essays. Since the essay is pretty much the only place where you can reach the admissions officers emotionally, portraying your personality and the human side of you is extremely important as it always is. But this year superior writing can also be very important because it demonstrates how academically prepared you are for college courses.
Fourth is extracurricular activities the pandemic is not an excuse to omit this part. While it's true that many activities are not feasible right now, there are so many creative ways you can go about getting in these extracurricular activities. Some examples may be organizing a fundraiser or helping someone in need, all things you can do online. Overall what's important is that you find something that you're passionate about and you creatively find a way to get involved.
Last, take the SAT if you can. This year you don't have to submit it if you don't like your score. So it can't hurt either way. If you get a great score on your SAT, then that's awesome. You can submit that and it can only help your application. But if your SAT score is maybe lower than average, you don't have to send it because many of the SAT optional schools allow you to not send it even if you have it. So in most cases taking the SAT won't hurt at all it can only help.
We hope you found this video useful. Comment below if you have any questions and don't forget to subscribe to get more college admissions advice. Thank you so much for watching!