More Than a Number: Just How Important are ACT/SAT Scores?

Kalea Reeves, Staff Writer

You find yourself stuck in close quarters for four hours with people you barely know, meticulously filling in bubbles on subjects you barely understand. The constant regret of  “Why on earth did I do this?” washes over you. It’s a feeling the millions of students who take the SAT and ACT tests feel, but is it necessary?

Short answer: yes. But it’s not as simple as that.

If you asked a college admissions officer twenty, ten or even five years ago whether or not ACT/SAT are necessary for college applications, the answer would be a no-brainer: absolutely. However, in recent years, some schools are moving towards a test-optional admissions process, in which your ACT/SAT scores aren’t required.

These schools say that a mere test score is a poor judge of a student’s character, choosing to instead focus more on interviews, recommendations, essays and GPA. Students with test anxiety or another learning disability can be an excellent student,  which is reflected in their GPA, but score poorly on the ACT/SAT. The new ability for retaking ACT sections also plays a factor. Students will be able to focus on their weaker areas and raise scores tremendously, which will lower the score’s “impressiveness” to a university. This change will especially disrupt how scholarships are awarded to high scores. Test-optional schools around here include Southeast Missouri State University, University of Central Missouri and Missouri State University.

However, before you throw those ACT scores out the window, know that these test-optional schools are very few and far between. The ACT/SAT scores are still vitally important in most college admissions. They test for college readiness and are a way to separate similar students.

“If a person has a 4.0 at one school and another person has a 4.0 at another school, how can you tell if the same caliber was achieved at both schools? Since all schools have different instruction, the ACT is a subjective baseline,” College Guidance Counselor Mrs. Katie Dodge said.

So should you take the ACT? Absolutely. It is quite unlikely that the only schools you want to go to are test-optional, and the scores can get you scholarships and strengthen your college applications. However, you shouldn’t put all of your effort into these tests. They may be required for college admissions, but they don’t give a full scope of your character, personality and abilities as a student. Admissions officers know you are a person with unique talents and ideas…not just a number.