Breaking ACT tradition

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Most people wouldn’t imagine that anything life-altering could take the form of three letters. However, for high school students everywhere, there are two words with three letters that can change everything: ACT. SAT.

ACT and SAT scores have long been a staple of the traditional college application. Yet in recent years, the importance of these two words has been debated as many colleges, including some popular, local universities, choose to become test-optional.

Beginning in 2020, Creighton University will no longer require the majority of its freshman applicants to submit results from the ACT or SAT until after official admission. Creighton University joins many other test-optional schools in the Midwest region, such as Doane University, University of Chicago, and Arizona State University.

Creighton’s decision to omit this requirement arrived after debates on whether scores can fully predict who will do well in higher education. The university also released statements supporting their decision on the grounds that standardized tests limit diversity and discourage students without the privilege of certain educational resources.

This is because many students who attempt to earn top scores on the ACT or SAT turn to prep classes or crash curriculum, which have their own sets of flaws. On top of having a limited outreach to only those students who can afford their high fees, these courses can result in students trying to ‘beat the test’, meaning that they learn tips and tricks to get a higher score rather than actually learning educational information.

All this poses the question of where that leaves us. In recent years, MN has included John Baylor ACT prep courses during the school day for all juniors preparing to take the state-mandated April ACT. Spending two hours and other in-class time learning quick skills for the ACT leads students to prioritize prepping for the test. At the same time, when universities that are commonly pursued by MN students, such as Creighton University, promote test-optional applications, students are left wondering whether to focus on standardized tests or extracurriculars.

In truth, tests are undeniably important to our education and to some extent reflect one’s ability to perform well on college-style assessments. That being said, becoming obsessed with achieving a better score can lead students to become disappointed or cause them to underestimate their own abilities, when in reality, intelligence cannot be quantified in merely one number.

Ultimately, test scores should not and often do not have as much importance as other components of a student’s application, such as personal essays, leadership, and recommendations, that may allow colleges to obtain a better sense of who their applicants truly are.

What students need to remember is that colleges want you, not a number on a score sheet. While no one can say that your test scores don’t matter at all, what’s most important is that you represent who you truly are, and there are no tips or tricks around that.

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