Is the SAT your only ticket to college? It definitely wasn’t mine.

No matter how many scandals rise from the unconvincing nature of the entire college application process, most schools in the U.S. are known to require prospective students to have taken and/or received satisfactory scores on either the SAT or ACT. When you browse the site of an American university, you are likely to have the impression that it has a rather holistic approach with careful consideration and validation for your accomplishments not only academically, but also socially and regarding sports. Nonetheless, most of the time, it is deceitful because in order for them to take those latter forms into consideration, you need to meet or fulfill their standardized test requirements in the first place.

As a student who has always had a single dream school in mind, I knew I had to bring my A-game from the start of my high-school journey. Throughout the course of the five years I have spent in high school, including the prep year, I did my best to volunteer, get active, socialize and participate in as many events as possible in various fields. I worked tirelessly to have outstanding academic achievements and have often exhausted myself along the way because I thought, or I was meant to think, that unless I practiced for the SAT/ACT, I couldn’t get a score high enough to convince my dream school to accept me. No SAT score, no chance— at least that was how I thought it would be. However, I was wrong.

My instance can be very exceptional: I studied for the SAT, the ACT, took both tests multiple times, tried the subject tests twice and none of them delivered me results that would help me reach my dream school. I was studying in the IB Program and as it turns out, the challenge I put myself in through the program was recognized by certain universities regardless of my standardized test scores. Before I knew it, I applied to my dream school with my IB predicted score. Yes, you heard it correctly. I have applied and got admitted to my dream American university with my IB score— without having sent my SAT/ACT scores, which I always thought was a crucial part of the whole application process.

Surely, not all schools will have a standardized test policy as flexible as my dream school, so it is vital that you do thorough research on that but my point here is that it is truly possible that you have certain alternatives other than the SAT/ACT. We are all different and we may excel or show our skills off in varying forms. I expressed my skills best through the IB program, my best friend did hers through her portfolio and another friend of mine was simply lucky enough to have proved her skills through succeeding in the SAT. Universities are acknowledging and accepting multiple forms of success indicators in increasing paces which means that just like me, you could build your way into your dream school without necessarily reaching neither your personal SAT target score nor the optimal score that is required by your target school.

What universities really want to see is that you have provable academic accomplishments in a universally accepted form, say the SAT, ACT, AP program or the IB program, regardless of the degree of its reliability. Once you seemingly satisfy their academic expectations, your entire admissions decisions are down to your involvement in sports activities, social events and community services as a means of representing your capability of being a well-rounded individual who can nail just about anything. For some of you, it may be best to excel in a specified area and for others the higher the variety, the better the outcome may be. Just find your strengths and desires and make sure the things you do throughout high-school don’t only surround around the expectations of your intended schools but also satisfy your personal interests.

If you are currently freaking out about how to ace the SAT/ACT (a very common symptom of that is watching all the tutorials, tips and tricks on the subject matter), just take a deep breath and relax because as a person who got into a dream U.S. college of hers without her SAT/ACT score, I am telling you that detailed research can introduce you to alternative approaches towards entering the school you have always wanted. Having felt distant because the idea of not meeting its standardized test requirements scared you off, just like they did to me, is quite annoying but it is up to you to end it. If you can succeed in the standardized tests, great! If you study hard only to figure you are drowning in failure, then don’t lose more time. Go and search for alternatives. Find a school that has a more flexible perception of what a holistic approach actually means. Once you find that school, specify your routine towards meeting its requirements. If you are an art lover, go for a portfolio, express yourself in the best way possible.

Despite the inevitable fact that college applications and the entire decision-making phase are quite destructive on so many levels, we actually do hold a chance in turning it into our favor. Often, it is as simple as finding alternative schools that will accept and appreciate us despite our possibly unfulfilling test scores. In order for me to understand this, I had to study for the SAT my entire summer with tutors and never-ending practice tests. I had to re-take the test over three times, tried the ACT thinking it could be a better means of self-expression for me and eventually tried the SAT Subject Tests twice, only to realize that none of these standardized forms of success determiners fit me well. Only then have I discovered my options: I could apply to my dream school with my IB score and only that. The SAT wasn’t the only ticket I had upon entering my dream school and it sure isn’t yours either. Try it first and if you seem to fail from the beginning, do not waste time studying further as I did. Just take it to your advantage and use your time wisely to search for the flexibility levels or exceptional circumstances offered by your dream school(s).

I genuinely hope this personal experience will encourage you to consider your alternatives and to not be afraid of the whole application deal. Happy alternative hunting! :)

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