Does Test Optional Really mean Test Optional?

Posted by Neal Schwartz on September 25, 2021

does "test-optional" really mean test-optional?


While standardized testing has been one of the major determinants of college admission for years, the pandemic has changed all of that.…or has it? Following waves of colleges adopting test-optional policies, competition seems tighter than ever. But how is that so? Isn’t the purpose of test-optional to give a greater opportunity to students that didn’t get a chance to take the SAT or ACT or for whom the pandemic greatly impacted their academic performance?

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Topics: college preparation, college admissions, early action, college counseling, high school senior, high school junior, test optional

Will this year's College Admissions be any different?

Posted by Neal Schwartz on September 09, 2021

Following the toughest admissions year on record, will it be different this year?


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Topics: college preparation, college admissions, early decision, early action, early decision 2, college counseling, high school senior, high school junior, test optional, college lists, recommendations

6 Predictions on Post-Pandemic Academia

Posted by Neal Schwartz on June 27, 2021


Summer is here, but the impacts of the pandemic are here to stay


School is out, and that well-deserved summer vacation is finally upon us. This year has been nothing short of exceptional, and students, parents and teachers should all be proud of how they’ve coped and adapted to the unique challenges of the pandemic. As we head into the summer season, it’s important to reflect on the lessons the pandemic has taught us and predict some of the short and long-term impacts. Here are some of our thoughts.


Teaching through a pandemic has met with various levels of success. But overall, the shift to online learning proved to be a big and often unrewarding challenge. One of the strongest impacts of the pandemic on teachers is that more and more of them may leave, retire, or adapt their methods. K-12 Teachers who first struggled with the Common Core, and later with the online learning modes that were forced on them, will leave in greater numbers. The pressure of following a curriculum and learning entirely new teaching methods proved to be too much for certain teachers. Similarly, college professors who were caught off-guard by online learning and obtained negative reviews from students will re-evaluate their future and either retire or learn from the experience. It seems that very few found online learning fruitful, and there will be a negative connotation towards online learning unless there is a modification to gauge involvement and engagement from individual students.


Due to the flaws in online learning and little time to test trial and error, high school and some college students will discover serious academic gaps. With unequal connections to the Internet and difficulty following classes that are less and less hands-on and engaging, the difference in academic success is measurable. As a result, both high schools and colleges will discard online learning motions that failed and invest in online learning that can still be used post-pandemic to complement courses and overall curriculum.

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Topics: College Essays, College Applications, college preparation, ACT, college admissions, SAT/ACT, SAT prep, college counseling, high school senior, high school junior, test optional, GPA, education gaps due to covid, college finances, pandemic impact on education, college freshmen, college financial situation

How is the Test-Optional Trend Impacting American Campuses?

Posted by Neal Schwartz on June 15, 2021


Standardized test scores have long been a staple of the college application. Students generally start studying for the SAT or ACT well in advance and schedule multiple test dates to submit the highest scores possible. This type of testing was deemed useful to colleges and universities because it was supposed to be indicative of student performance: a direct, concrete way to evaluate academic skills. However, the reality is not exactly that.

Standardized testing has undergone quite a bit of criticism as well, bringing to light biases against race and socio-economic status, and little prediction of future academic performance. So COVID-19 has been the straw that broke the camel’s back in a struggle of universal acceptance.

It’s clear that the pandemic has changed the old ways of applying to college. With many colleges and universities giving students a break this year and adopting temporary or permanent test-optional policies, there is a whole new game to master.

According to a recent article, the test optional application has required admissions officers to take a new stance when evaluating prospective students. Whereas before, testing was a relatively simple way to classify students into ranks, without it, other factors such as GPA, essays and recommendations are gaining more weight and importance.

From an admissions standpoint, the shift away from testing shouldn’t mean that it will be more difficult and time-consuming to evaluate applications, but that applications will be approached from a different perspective. One such approach is polling, used by admissions officers to rate candidates based on their transcripts. This technique is used now at Cornell.

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Topics: College Essays, College Applications, college preparation, ACT, college admissions, SAT/ACT, SAT prep, Cornell University, college counseling, high school senior, high school junior, test optional, GPA, college essay topics

Why Your College Essay May Be More Important Than Your Test Scores

Posted by Neal Schwartz on May 30, 2021

As we all know, the college application can be a long and complicated endeavor. We can think of the college application as a portfolio of student performance across a wide variety of metrics that allows admissions officers to judge the quality and potential of the students they’ll accept. The most important elements have long been known to be GPA, test scores, recommendations and last but not least, the college essay.

However, we’ve been seeing a noteworthy shift away from the quantitative towards more abstract ways of evaluating a student.

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Topics: College Applications, college preparation, college admissions, SAT/ACT, college counseling, test optional, highly selective colleges, standardized college entrance testing, soft factors in college admission, summer student college application course, college essay, holistic college admissions review


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