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Articles / Preparing for College / Should Student Send Slightly Sub-Median ACT Score to Test-Optional School?

Should Student Send Slightly Sub-Median ACT Score to Test-Optional School?

Sally Rubenstone
Written by Sally Rubenstone | Aug. 3, 2020
Should Student Send Slightly Sub-Median ACT Score to Test-Optional School?

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I just read your column on whether to submit a test score or not during these times. My daughter took the ACT in January of junior year and received a 26. It was supposed to be a starting point, but it looks as though she may not be able to take it again. We were confident that with test prep, she would go up a few points. Clemson is about a 28 for admission. Do you think she should submit that score since the school is now test optional? Her GPA is 4.4 at a top high school in Michigan. She has taken six credit hours at Mississippi State over the summer, and has good leadership and extracurriculars. Should she submit the 26 knowing it is just under Clemson's 27-32 middle 50 percent?


This one is a close call, but if your daughter were my daughter, I'd say, "DON'T send the 26." In a more ordinary year, when most students WILL send test scores to test-optional colleges, there might be more room for debate. But, this year, when so many kids will not send (or even take) the ACT or SAT, it's not a good idea to submit any subpar results, even if those results are only a bit below the median range, as your daughter's are. (Exception: If your daughter comes from a disadvantaged background, is an underrepresented minority student or a recruited athlete, she should certainly send her scores.)

Clemson is a hot choice right now, climbing the selectivity ladder quickly — whether that's thanks to the Tiger prowess on the gridiron, to the fact that northern teenagers are finally discovering that there are schools without snow, or to myriad other factors. Thus, because the Clemson admission folks like the fact that they're sharing a growing number of applicants with places like Duke, Emory, UVA and Tulane, they don't need to be "reminded" that your daughter's 26 would probably keep her out of all of those snazzy competitors. Instead, let the rest of her application (grades, leadership, et al) speak on her behalf.

About the Ask the Dean Column

Sally Rubenstone is a veteran of the college admissions process and is the co-author of three books covering admissions. She worked as a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years and has also served as an independent college counselor, in addition to working as a senior advisor at College Confidential since 2002. If you'd like to submit a question to The Dean please email us at editorial@collegeconfidential.com.

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Written by

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone

Sally Rubenstone knows the competitive and often convoluted college admission process inside out: From the first time the topic of college comes up at the dinner table until the last duffel bag is unloaded on a dorm room floor. She is the co-author of Panicked Parents' Guide to College Admissions; The Transfer Student's Guide to Changing Colleges and The International Student's Guide to Going to College in America. Sally has appeared on NBC's Today program and has been quoted in countless publications, including The New York Times, The Washington Post, USA Weekend, USA Today, U.S. News & World Report, Newsweek, People and Seventeen. Sally has viewed the admissions world from many angles: As a Smith College admission counselor for 15 years, an independent college counselor serving students from a wide range of backgrounds and the author of College Confidential's "Ask the Dean" column. She also taught language arts, social studies, study skills and test preparation in 10 schools, including American international schools in London, Paris, Geneva, Athens and Tel Aviv. As senior advisor to College Confidential since 2002, Sally has helped hundreds of students and parents navigate the college admissions maze. In 2008, she co-founded College Karma, a private college consulting firm, with her College Confidential colleague Dave Berry, and she continues to serve as a College Confidential advisor. Sally and her husband, Chris Petrides, became first-time parents in 1997 at the ripe-old age of 45. So Sally was nearly an official senior citizen when her son Jack began the college selection process, and when she was finally able to practice what she had preached for more than three decades.

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