Yes, Covid has made admissions more confusing, particularly due to “test-optional”. But if the results of Early Decision and Early Action applicants are indicative of “test-optional”, it would be beyond foolish for students in the affluent suburbs of Connecticut, New York, and New Jersey to approach the process as it were optional. It seems very clear that the best admissions and financial aid outcomes have been for those who submitted top SAT or ACT scores. I have written about this issue elsewhere but, suffice to say, test-optional is not designed to help those from Shoreline, CT or Westchester, NY or Northern New Jersey.
Over the years, I have gone from the idealistic educator who was highly self-conscious regarding anything that would smack of self-promotion to realizing the foolishness of not advocating the benefits for our clientele.
My willingness to urge test prep stemmed more from economic realism than from college admission realism.
In the past, the SAT (and ACT) was a critical weapon to help our clients gain admission to colleges of their choice. Now the SAT (and ACT) has become essential to not only help gain admission but also to pay for college.
Test prep has sometimes led to $100,000 merit aid for our SAT clients. Colleges are now in a fight for survival. If they do not attract top students, their reputations drop as do those tuition dollars. To ensure a top reputation, colleges need to attract top students. The easiest way they can demonstrate student quality is through an objective measurement such as the SAT (and ACT). So, they do what any sensible marketer would do: they spend money on what will help get people to buy their product. In the college game, this means giving scholarships to high SAT scorers.
Start test prep now. It turns out to be better than most inputs to a 529 plan.