When you think of the college application process, you probably picture a combination of two main factors that, until recently, were essential: a transcript and a score from an approved testing company. This perception exists for a reason; as of 2018, over 2.2 million students took the SAT, while 1.9 million sat for the ACT. Many students take both exams—and it is not uncommon to repeat them until a desired score is achieved.
The SAT and ACT remain valuable tools for gaining admission into the college of your dreams, but they are no longer strictly necessary. Recognizing the disparities that underlie test access and results, many academic institutions offer alternative paths to admission. The goal: to welcome a talented and hardworking pool of students who deserve the opportunity to excel in college.
The need for a test-optional approach has become that much more significant in light of COVID-19 and social distancing measures. For months, testing was suspended altogether. While the SAT and ACT are set to return, capacity will be limited in an effort to enforce social distancing guidelines. At-home tests may be possible in the future, but issues regarding internet access make this approach less viable than desired. 

3 Alternatives to Getting Into College Without the SAT or ACT

The test-optional admissions process varies slightly from one college to the next. In general, however, this approach de-emphasizes exams such as the SAT or ACT and instead places the onus on students to highlight their abilities via grade point average and explanations of extracurricular activities.
Students who choose to apply without submitting test scores should make every effort to ensure that their applications accurately convey their abilities, accomplishments, and potential for future success. These essentials can be highlighted by submitting the following: 

1. High School or College Transcript

Even with testing, the high school transcript forms a core component of the application process. This document outlines how prospective students fared during their formative years of academia. Every transcript includes a full list of courses taken, as well as grades for those classes.
While students tend to focus on grade point average, high school transcripts also convey the extent to which applicants took on challenging coursework. After all, while Advanced Placement and honors classes may stand in the way of a perfect GPA, they also provide excellent preparation for the rigors of college.
The SAT and ACT were never of chief importance for transfer students with previous college experience. This remains true in an age of test-optional admissions. Rather, transfer students should submit both high school and college transcripts, which provide an accurate picture of their academic experience thus far—and what they can expect to accomplish while moving forward at a different institution. 

2. Participation in Extracurricular Activities

Colleges value well-rounded students with skills in a variety of areas beyond academia. Participation in extracurricular activities conveys passion and commitment while also highlighting unique abilities that could be of benefit to the campus community.
If you submit a college application without SAT or ACT scores, you will be prompted to provide information about your activities outside of the classroom. Take this opportunity to show what, exactly, sets you apart from other applicants. Pursuits worth mentioning include:

  • Athletic teams—especially for those intending to continue sports in college.
  • Performing arts, such as orchestra, band, theater, or dance.
  • Visual arts, such as painting, photography, or graphic design.
  • Academic clubs and societies that convey interest or skill in a particular subject. These could include debate team, speech team, and science Olympiad, among others. 

3. Work And Volunteer Experience

Many students gain valuable skills in part or full-time jobs prior to attending college. These positions provide a variety of life skills that can be difficult to gain through academia alone. In many cases, jobs even relate to the student's intended profession. When they don't, however, they impart valuable lessons about time management, communication, and fortitude. For this reason, work experience should be thoroughly documented, even when it doesn't initially seem relevant to the college experience.
Internships are even more valuable for college admissions as they maintain an academic focus and may relate to the intended course of study. Whether paid or unpaid, these positions demonstrate both college and career readiness.
In addition to paid work experience and internships, students should also highlight volunteering or community service projects. Details regarding the nature of the volunteer work are essential. Ideally, this section of the application will explain where the service experience took place, how the applicant made a difference, and the number of hours committed to various causes.
Don't let a lack of SAT or ACT scores prevent you from pursuing your academic and career goals. With a well-rounded application, you can gain admission into your dream college. This is your opportunity to move forward in your academic journey without worrying about the testing process. Of course, you're still welcome to submit these test scores—but you won't automatically be turned away without them.
If you want to pursue an undergraduate, graduate degree, or any of our other degree options that lead to a successful career, look no further than University of the Cumberlands. With professors who have years of real-world experience in the same field they are teaching, very competitive tuition rates, and a sense of honor in everything we do, why look any further? See what UC can do for you by contacting an admissions counselor for more information.