UC Answers: How do I stand out when ACT/SAT tests are optional?

UC expert Delonte LeFlore shares tips for navigating admissions when tests scores are optional

Video link: https://www.youtube.com/embed/Wef4BCdVZR0?rel=0

Q: Why has UC made ACT/SAT scores optional?

LeFlore: The University of Cincinnati recognizes that changes to testing availability and testing environments due to the COVID-19 pandemic leaves many students with inequitable access to standardized tests. UC has chosen to make test scores optional for students applying to most programs for fall 2021 and fall 2022 terms to ensure an equitable opportunity for admission.

Whether or not you choose to have your ACT/SAT scores considered as part of your application, your application will receive full consideration for admission and scholarships. It will also be read in its entirety during our individual review process.

Q: How do I know if my score is good enough to send?

LeFlore: Submitted standardized test scores will serve as one of many elements that are holistically assessed to determine a student’s ability to contribute to and benefit from a degree from the University of Cincinnati. No single factor within the application determines your likelihood of being admitted. The Office of undergraduate admissions uses an individualized, holistic review process to consider each completed first-year application.

Q: Even though it’s optional, is submitting scores still recommended?

LeFlore: Students will not be disadvantaged if they do not submit a test score or at an advantage if they submit scores. Therefore, we do not encourage students to go to great lengths or take great risks in our current environment to submit a test score. College readiness can be demonstrated in many different ways, and we will review everything a student sends to determine if they are college-ready.

These things may include essay responses, high school transcripts, courses, rigor of courses where extra rigor was available (such as AP/honors/dual credit) and letters of recommendation. Grade Point Average will be a large determining factor in review. If a student has a test score and feels that's a strong indication of their college readiness, they can also submit it.

Q: What will you look at in my application?

LeFlore: We have always taken a holistic approach to evaluating students for admission. Standardized test scores have historically only made up a small part of our decision process. In the absence of a test score, we will continue to look at all factors on your application holistically including the completion of a core curriculum that includes English, math, science, social studies and various electives. We’ll also look at grades earned, a student’s decision to take rigorous coursework such as AP, honors, or dual credit, plus application essays, extracurricular activities and other achievements. 

Q: What advice would you give to high school students who may be wondering how best to distinguish themselves for colleges in this new environment?

LeFlore: Take the application seriously. This is an opportunity to showcase who you are to the university. You want to put your best foot forward and provide insight into your academic preparation. Spend time on the essay prompts to share why you are interested in a certain major, extra-curricular activities, student leadership, community services, work experience or other outstanding experiences.

Make sure to explain personal or extenuating circumstances that may include having overcome social, economic, or physical barriers to educational achievement. This also can include having significant responsibility within your family, community, job or other areas. Letters of recommendation also provide additional levels of understanding about your experiences and how you may have contributed inside or outside the classroom. 

Q: How will this impact my ability to get a scholarship?

LeFlore: Your decision as to whether you submit standardized scores will not impact your ability to receive scholarships. All students who apply test-optional by our December 1 early action deadline will be considered for scholarships.

Featured image at top: Delonte LeFlore is interim assistant vice provost for admissions at the University of Cincinnati. Photo/Lisa Ventre/UC Creative + Brand

Learn more about applying to UC

Discover more test-optional advice on this frequently asked questions page. You can also reach out to an admissions counselor, setup a tour or apply here. Find more UC Answers to your important questions.