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I’m Applying to UC’s - Do I Still Need to Take the SAT?
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I’m Applying to UC’s – Do I Still Need to Take the SAT?


In the past, we examined the language of the settlement that bans UC’s from using the SAT and ACT in admissions through Spring 2025. But the settlement applies only to UC’s. If you’re wise, you should already know to apply to colleges beyond the UC system. Let’s examine why it’s still a good idea to apply to take the SAT and/or the ACT.

CSU’s Will Evaluate SAT’s Starting Fall 2022

The CSU system has been transparent that its suspension of a test requirement is temporary. According to its policy, it will not use SAT or ACT in its evaluation of candidates applying during the 2021-2022 academic year. This means they are on track to using those tests for applicants applying in Fall 2022 (to start as Freshmen in Fall 2023). Hence, if you’re finishing your 10th grade in 2021, or belong to a graduating class of 2023 or later, the CSU system will evaluate you based on your SAT or ACT score.

Remember that the CSU’s operate differently from the UC’s in that the CSU’s do not use the holistic review process. In other words, it only uses your GPA and SAT/ACT to make admissions decisions (with a few exceptions for specific programs). Hence, it’s critical for it to return to have another numerical metric aside from one’s GPA.

We advise all California residents to apply for the CSU system, so if you live in California, this means we also advise preparing for and taking the SAT and/or ACT.

Many Colleges Are Still Test Optional

Just because you’re applying to the UC’s doesn’t mean you’re not applying anywhere else. Most students nowadays consider other great schools like UIUC, Carnegie Mellon, or Harvard — all of which remain test optional. Hence, you should take the opportunity to demonstrate as much aptitude as possible, and reporting a strong SAT or ACT score can help you do just that.

Here’s a list of colleges that remain test optional. The word “optional” has become somewhat synonymous with “recommended,” because it’s safe to assume that if a college is open to taking it, they actually want it. After all, reviewing a student’s course load and GPA can be limiting in terms of understanding a student’s overall aptitude. Especially, if that student has blemishes in critical courses in Math and English: both of which can be addressed through an SAT or ACT.

Of course, the primary assumption is that you score well enough on an SAT or ACT to report it in the first place. If your test score looks worse than your GPA, then you’re probably better off omitting that from your college applications.

The National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test

The official administration of the NMSQT, also known as the official PSAT, occurs in the 11th grade. To earn the National Merit Scholarship, you pretty much have to score perfect on this test. While this might sound like a tall task, it’s certainly achievable with early preparation, strong knowledge foundations in reading and math, and a firm understanding of what the test is made of.

Whatever happens with test policies will likely never touch the National Merit Scholarship Qualifying Test. Achievement of a semifinalist or finalist position is qualified as an award, not a test score. Furthermore, that award is worth a good chunk of money for college. Hence, the opportunity to earn an award and money towards college makes preparing for the SAT, or PSAT, a good investment of time if you believe you can achieve the National Merit Scholarship.

Recap & Conclusion

Consider taking the SAT or ACT based on your situation. CSU’s are on track to considering those tests for applicants applying in Fall 2022 (to start as Freshmen in Fall 2023). Outside of the UC’s, most prestigious colleges are keeping their policies aligned with test scores being optional. Though, the word “optional” has become somewhat synonymous with “recommended.” Last but not least, prepare for the SAT or PSAT if you believe you can achieve the National Merit Scholarship and win some money towards your college funds. 

We hope that this provides some valuable insight on whether you still need to take the SAT/ACT while making your college application profile even stronger. We specialize in youth mentorship and college counseling. From 8th grade to 12th, we have you covered for any stage in your high school career. Schedule a free consultation with us here.

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