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the Gauntlet

the official student-produced news site for Saint Stephen's Episcopal School

the Gauntlet

the official student-produced news site for Saint Stephen's Episcopal School

the Gauntlet

Test-optional doesn’t really mean test-optional

A number of colleges are going back on their “test optional” agenda, and it raises the question: Has it been necessary, all along, to get truly get into your dream school?
Laila Yavalar
Is stressing over your Act or SAT score even worth it?

Every Senior anticipates the day they get the letter from their “dream college” that says, “Congratulations on your acceptance.” Leading up to this exciting day, Seniors have a large list of requirements to complete to graduate to help ensure acceptance into their special school.  

At Saint Stephen’s, it was always the goal to strive for excellence, pushing the Seniors to have certain extracurricular activities, take rigorous classes, play at least one sport starting in sixth grade, have 100 volunteer hours, and take a language to make their resumes stand out. 

Due to our resumes and grades being above average, some of us thought it wasn’t as important to study hard for the ACT and SAT to get into our dream schools. This year was one of the first years that colleges outside of Florida became “test optional,” meaning that it wasn’t required to submit a standardized test score as a part of the college application process. This seemingly worked to the advantage of kids who weren’t strong test-takers and helped us to focus more on our grades and extracurricular activities. 

Unfortunately, after getting the results back from many colleges, not submitting your test scores wasn’t the way to go. According to The New York Post, colleges are businesses at the end of the day, and they favor students who submit high test scores. Some colleges didn’t even look at our applications if we didn’t have over a 29 ACT or a 1350 SAT because this, along with good grades and extracurriculars, shows their strength in all fields. 

After looking at the data, colleges will still favor students who have strong test scores over those who have none, according to Command Education. This past application cycle proved that just under 90% of those admitted to Georgetown University’s Class of 2025 had submitted test results, and for Vanderbilt University, 56.3% of applicants voluntarily submitted test scores, and 61.1% of admitted students applied with test scores. Assuming they all had similar grades, test scores played a huge role in their admittance.

Besides admission, according to CollegeData, one of the disadvantages of applying test-optional is not receiving merit scholarships, due to many of the “test-optional” schools using test scores as a determining factor for some scholarships.  

When it comes to our in-state schools, test scores were necessary. Still, we all thought even with a mediocre test score, getting good grades at Saint Stephen’s and completing all of the graduation requirements would at least guarantee us acceptance into any Florida college, due to the rigorous coursework and prestige of Saint Stephen’s that colleges recognize. However, for most of us, this wasn’t the case. 

According to Business Insider, Florida’s population has increased 1.9% since COVID-19, adding 417,000 new residents, making it the fastest-growing state in the country. 

This has resulted in a large increase in the applications of in-state students and out-of-state students wanting to attend a Florida school. 

This increase made it extremely competitive for any student to get into a Florida school, whether you go to Saint Stephen’s or not. The determining factor is the student’s test scores.

SSES college counselor Mrs. Hasbrouck stated in her recent email that it has gotten more difficult to get into colleges, and the rejections this year have been something we’ve never seen before. 

She states, “Applicants [often] focus on state schools, which are generally the more affordable option for students who live in the region — in fact, large state universities are growing in popularity. According to the Common App’s recent data, applications to its public member institutions have increased 82% since the 2019-20 cycle, while private member institutions have seen an increase of 47% in the same time period.” (Ivy Wise, 2024) Waitlists are continuing to get longer, and international applications are once again on the rise.”

For the current seniors, Mrs. Hasbrouke, along with the rest of the college counseling team, encourages us to embrace our small wins during this stressful and difficult time.

For the rest of the upper school, don’t make the same mistake we did. Remember that test scores are an important part of your application, even if the schools are test-optional.

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About the Contributors
Savannah Hrubar
Savannah Hrubar, Staff Writer
Savannah Hrubar is a first year senior on The Gauntlet and took on the position of a staff writer. Her favorite color is pink, she has a really cute cat, and she plays volleyball in her free time. Her favorite show is Friends but she doesn't have a lot of time to watch TV.
Laila Yavalar
Laila Yavalar, Staff Writer
Laila Yavalar is a junior on the Gauntlet where her position consists of being a creative staff writer. In her free time she enjoys going to the beach, working out, and listening to music. Her favorite artists are Romeo Santos, Drake, and Mac Demarco.

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