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Keep on keepin’ it optional

The following reflects the majority opinion of the Editorial Board.

The test-optional policy refers to the choice high school students get to make regarding their ACT/SAT scores when applying to colleges. 

As we all know, taking these standardized tests and sending your scores to schools you’re considering has been an expectation since as long as most of us can remember. But, because of complications in scheduling and preparation during the COVID-19 pandemic, many schools made sharing test scores with them optional for students applying last year. 

Miami is currently deciding whether to extend this policy for the next round of applicants. To us, the answer is clear — continue making it optional. 

Not only do we think pandemic-related challenges of taking the standardized tests are still very much at play, we also believe these types of exams should be permanently optional. 

Other very credible schools like the University of Dayton and the University of Chicago are keeping the test-optional policy for good. And there are so many reasons why this needs to be the standard. 

High school students have already lost a year of traditional formative learning. Even before that, the toll these tests take on a student's mental health is too much. The pressure is even higher now, but where it was before wasn’t OK, either. We need to remember we’re talking about kids here. And this kind of stress can be damaging when those test scores take precedence over other scholastic achievements. 

We know Miami is trying to look at potential students from a holistic standpoint going forward. So a number taken off a bubble sheet shouldn’t necessarily be one of their top factors. Additionally, these tests are inequitable. Test prep courses, paying for each time the test is taken and access to study materials are all things that put students from lower-income households at a disadvantage. 

Permanently making the submission of these scores optional would be a concrete step in the right direction for economically diversified recruiting. Plus, it could encourage more students to apply. 

This also puts students at an advantage to receive scholarships if they have a strong GPA. For many students who aren’t great test takers, it’s easier to reach a higher scholarship bracket by basing their academics off years of work — rather than a few hours of test taking. 

We know this isn’t great financially for the university's bottom line. But this is a decision that would put students before the needs of the institution. 

Miami is on a quest for normalcy right now because of the pandemic. But the previous testing standard isn’t something that should be brought back. To be stronger as a community and as a school, we need a new normal. 

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It’s unfair to ask students to be strong in every single area. Some students excel in class, clubs, the arts, volunteer work and sports. Some even excel on standardized tests. So, if Miami really wants to look at students holistically, then we need to let them put their best foot forward when applying. 

Our best option is to keep it optional.