#50 ACT-SAT Test Optional Admission Data Transcript



Brooke Hanson  00:00

My balance is shifting. I get a lot of families and everybody has so many questions. They want to talk to me for an hour on how to game test optional, rather than how to game the s&p. So it’s kind of interesting the complication in the game, right like that. We’ve got the schools that used to have five to 9% admin rates, and everybody I feel like is looking for how do I get in the system? And it’s not the majority, but there’s five to 10% of people who are like, Oh, well, I’ve never been good at tests. I never thought I could go to Harvard. But now I think I can. I really feel like it’s just becoming too much of a circus all this.


Lisa Marker Robbins  00:36

With the rapid growth of AC T SATs test optional policies during COVID. Your family might just be confused on whether your students should still take the AC T or SCT. And if they do, how will your teen know to which colleges they should submit their test scores. Brooke Hansen super tutor TV channel on YouTube has more than 265,000 followers and 20 million views of her awesome videos. When it comes to AC T LSAT and college admissions. She knows her stuff. You might be surprised to learn that for many years, she was pro test optional, and really believes students should have a choice. However, she recently changed her mind. In this episode, she’ll share why she changed her mind and how you can use the college admission data that she shares to your advantage. You’ll also find yourself nodding in agreement on her perspective on the positive mindset shift that can come from test prep and testing for your teen. I’m Lisa marker Robbins and I want to welcome you to College and Career Clarity, a flourish coaching production. Let’s dive right in to another great conversation. Well, it’s my pleasure to welcome my friend Brooke Hansen to the podcast. I know her as my friend, you guys probably know her as super tutor TV. Brooke has a fantastic and robust YouTube channel. She has over 265,000 subscribers and 20 million views. And she is a test prep expert. Brooke is going to speak to us today about what’s top of mind for a lot of students as they are submitting applications and what I think she and I would both say, younger students need to be thinking about to what’s test optional, like a lot of colleges move to a CTS a t test optional with the pandemic. It’s been a growing trend, but it changes every year. And she’s got her finger on the pulse of that. Brooke, welcome to the podcast.


Brooke Hanson  02:50

Thanks Lisa so much for having me. It’s great to be here. Yeah. So test optional. Right now we’re headed into the fall 2022 to 2023 admissions cycle for fall 2023 admission, it’s kind of amazing. You know, if you think back pre pandemic, before the pandemic started, we were looking at an atmosphere where around, you know, a little bit over 1000 colleges out of 5200 or so colleges in the United States, four year colleges. Were tests optional, right. Yeah, you know, give or take, we were maybe around a quarter of colleges. And now 85% of schools in the top 200 even have, like US News and World Report ranked schools are test optional. So we’ve really come a huge distance. And even when I say that, like if we look at just the top 200 schools, that’s even greater. We were under 10% of schools were test optional back in like 2018/2019.


Lisa Marker Robbins  03:45

Of that 200.


Brooke Hanson  03:46

Yeah. So like, if you look at all the colleges in the United States, right, it’s over 1000 Yeah. But a lot of those colleges were not the most competitive colleges, right. So if you look at just say, the top 200 most competitive colleges and for me and my client base, and I don’t you know, everybody’s different. And there’s so many colleges in United States, there’s so many different fits. But to me to look at those most competitive schools, because it makes sense to me, if you have an 85% admin rate at your college, like, test optional, could make sense for you. That totally makes sense to me, right? If you’re looking for people who are a good fit for your culture, I can understand it. And if their GPA is high enough, we have almost a 10 fold increase the number of schools that are test optional right now that are among the most competitive, and I think that’s where kind of the narrative gets interesting because it’s, we thought going into pandemic, everybody announced kind of tepidly Oh, for one year, we’re gonna let you guys off the hook because we get it. There’s testing centers closed all over the place. There’s huge issues with access. There’s also issues with people who don’t want to risk their health with grandmothers that are potentially threatened by this and they don’t wanna bring it home or whatever it is. So, like you said 85% of schools are test optional among the top 200. Among that same group of top 200 schools around 7% are tests required, which is up from about three or 4% in the 20 2022. One cycle, so that one number has shifted a bit. And then around 8% of schools are test blind, meaning they will not even look at your essay to your AC t score, even if you send it in. So yeah, it’s just a totally different climate than where we were, say four years ago, trying to weigh in on on what is this mean? And how do we play the game? If we’re in this and all that, hopefully, we can unpack some of that today.


Lisa Marker Robbins  05:22

You know, it’s interesting, when you’re working with students, one of the things I talk about with my students, and I’ve noticed is, do you see students because you’re just so mean, you’re doing so much Test Prep? Do you see students intentionally choosing a college list where they can apply test optional, or I feel like with the students that I’m in contact with, that’s usually a mixed bag, they’re either all in so they’re scoring really well, all of the schools that they apply to, they will submit test scores and lists or test blind, or they’ve got a list where it’s kind of mixed, like they’re gonna submit it, some they might not submit at a couple, but I’ve never personally worked with a student who has a college list where they go 100% test optional. So that’s why I always say you should be testing period.


Brooke Hanson  06:15

Right? Yeah, I mean, I do have a few students, I would say the majority of my students are still taking the SATs, the AC t, because they have me guiding them. And when I show them the data, which hopefully I’ll get into a little bit today, I think a lot of students realize, Oh, hey, maybe I do want to take the SATs or the AC t, because I’m realizing, right, and one of the things that I like to tell students do it’s like, you know, every college and university in America is activities optional. But why would you choose zero activities in high school? Like, I mean, maybe, you know, there are some kids, right? There are some kids who it’s like, okay, yeah, I had a special needs brother. And I have a single mom and I had to babysit for him. And I, you know, and I did the individual projects, and I did some things, but I couldn’t do you know, so So there are some stories, and there are some situations, and I think it’s the same thing with tests actual, there are some human beings. And this is why like, to be honest, back in 2018 2019, I was a weird, a strange bird, maybe not weird. I was just heard, and that I taught test prep, and told people, Hey, guys, I’m actually protest optional. Because I have so many kids coming in that were so stressed out, and they were like, Oh, my goodness, I you know, this test freaks me out. And I knew it like they would come and they would take a practice test with me and they get, you know, a 1530 on their SATs, they’d go and test it to get a 1320. And it would happen like, four or five times, and I’m tearing my hair out too, then usually what we do is we just have them like sneak in an AC T and pretend like it doesn’t matter at all. And then they get a 32 on their AC T or 33. And we’re like, hey, that’s 33 on your AC T is fine. We’re good. Yeah, like quit while you’re ahead. And don’t worry about that. 1520 aka should have been at 3435. Whatever. Right? You write your losses. But yeah, I mean, seeing those kids, I, I wanted them to have that out. And that’s what it used to be. Because when you look at the landscape, and 90% of top 200 colleges, which is if you’re a competitive student, if you’re kind of like an A student, even an A’s and B’s student that’s going through things like test prep, or trying to be in a cheaper, that’s probably the range of schools, you’re applying to 90% of those required tests, you’re going to take it Yes, yes. No, no question. And then that 10% of schools became a buffer, right? It became a, oh my gosh, there’s a place where maybe I can still get in. It’s not the end of the world. You know, and people find their path. And it was great. And I was so proud. And I, I would have even been happy if 20% of schools became that and then but still at 8020 80% of schools you want to go to, you’re gonna need a score, you’re gonna need a score. But now it’s happening. So I actually surveyed several months ago, I surveyed my YouTube subscribers, and we had about 1.6 1000 students respond, it is a convenient survey for you who are sec. data nerds


Lisa Marker Robbins  08:56

do not criticize my methodology. I did the best I can


Brooke Hanson  09:02

always use a convenient service. But I would say the convenience is these are students who are very engaged in this process, right? They’re the ones who care. They’re the ones who actually like watching YouTube channel and like, you know, they’re invested. Yeah, yeah, exactly. So and we had of those around 70% of those that are going to optional were either a not interested in trying or be not performing as well as they liked. So either a they didn’t study at all. Yep. And then about two and a half times as many students basically said they tried to study, they worked hard, and they didn’t get the score they wanted. In other words, the majority of students who are hiding their scores are hiding their scores. Right, right. So I have this story now and I get it like back in COVID. Day, yes. Like, you know, if we done this survey back in 2020, I think there might have been different results. And then we had 30% or so that said they either were a suffering test anxiety that was 7.5% or they had test availability or health issues that was 12.5%. And I will say I live in California. And we’d have test availability issues. And so to Washington, you still do. We still do. Yeah. For some of the, for some of the tests, so like, here’s what can happen, like somebody gets strep throat or COVID, the day before their SCT, they can’t go take it, then they have like tennis regionals, they can’t go take it, then they try to get a spot in July or August. They can’t get it right. So it doesn’t mean that they can’t take it at all. But it certainly is a challenge for some students. I just had a student drive four or five hours away in Washington State to go take an SCT.


Lisa Marker Robbins  10:30

Wow. Yeah, it’s not the test site canceling any long No. Student


Brooke Hanson  10:37

select University of Washington, for example, has gone test blind and less, right, the 50th percentile or above. So they will look at your score, if you get a super high score, but they’re not going to look at it at all. If you don’t reach that certain points. Just students look at that mountain. And they say, Well, I was only trying to limp in at the 25th percentile, like who cares? And and so they shrug their shoulders and go, Oh, I probably don’t need this. And that’s what I will say, too. And in California, it’s the same thing principles go, why do we need to host an LSAT, when all the UCs, all the Cal States aren’t even looking at it


Lisa Marker Robbins  11:10

very different depending on where you live. Because here in Ohio, we have a state AC trs 80, option by by high school. So that changes kind of attitude and embracing and being a willingness to host for sure.


Brooke Hanson  11:25

Yeah, and also of students taking it, they have to take it anyways. So right I might as well practice for you, even though it’s not required for admission is still required of them. And even for me, that’s a move in the right direction. So I do two things. So I like you said I do a lot of test prep. I also do essay coaching, things like that, and work with a lot of families. And what I’m finding is that I get a lot of my my balance is shifting, I get a lot of families, and everybody has so many questions, they want to talk to me for an hour and how to game test optional, rather than how to game the sap. So it’s kind of interesting, the complication in the game, right like that. We’ve got the schools that used to have five to 9% admin rates, and everybody I feel like is looking for, how do I get in the system? And it’s not the majority, but there’s five to 10% of people who are like, Oh, well, I’ve never been good at tests. I never thought I could go to Harvard. But now I think I can’t. I really feel like it’s just becoming too much of a circus. All this? I don’t know if you feel like that, too.


Lisa Marker Robbins  12:21

No, I do for sure. And that’s why I wanted to have you on to talk about this. Because kids right now, the seniors pretty much for the most part. I mean, we’re recording this on September the first and it’s gonna become available in the next month or so. Right? And they’ve got this next AC T on September 10. They’ve got the October 1 sad but seniors, you know, you’re done. You’re out of time, juniors, is changing. And what I already heard you say that I think juniors need to take note of is, you already are seeing a shift this year back to more schools starting to require the test.


Brooke Hanson  12:59

Yes, a little bit, we’ve doubled, we’ve almost doubled right, it was like three to 4% our at like 7%. But here’s what’s interesting, is even if it’s not required, and this is the part of the narrative, this is why all my students that I work with why 90% of them take the test anyway, why I’m not that 60% of most people I am up and 90% is that when you get into the weeds, you find another story. So if you dive a little deeper, at the end of the day, yes, schools have a policy that says we’re test optional, or they have a policy that says we’re test one or more tests required. But how schools use scores varies from college to college. And what a lot of people don’t realize is even pre pandemic like UCS, which are now test line used to be very favorable to people with low test scores. And you could see it if you just looked up their data, if you looked up their 25th to 75th percentiles, did you have to send a score? Yes. But what was that range? It was pretty darn big. Like you had to have a like a 550, or something on the low end for some of the top UCS, right. And that’s in for other schools that were in their band, if you looked at in their common data set, you would have seen Oh, wait, you know, the test is required, but the bar is lower. And I think I think that’s part of the story. And to me, I would rather have a world where we have schools like that, and you can look up their data. And they will tell you, it’s not as important to us, but it is important to us, you know what, you don’t just go to some totally fluffy marshmallow GPA school where everybody gets an A and they graduate people who have no skills, we at least know you know, how to read, you know how to write you have. Right, right, you’re not going to be the person who doesn’t. And with the problems with people dropping out in college, you know, and persistence and the fact that when you go to a state university, I think it’s something around a coin flip whether you finish in four or six years.


Lisa Marker Robbins  14:43

Yeah, I mean, you know what, 1% of students who start college have a degree in four years. 41% mean? Yeah,


Brooke Hanson  14:50

yeah, less than half right? Yeah. Less. Yeah, less than half and I think that might be maybe the 50% is the sixth year and I don’t know what all those statistics are. But basically the statistics are like, not great. So like there’s a reason why need to have a bar. But then there’s also a story to having a bar, even if you’re just a kid trying to compete Jessalyn go, I don’t know if you know his stuff. He’s written a book, he’s got a newsletter. So he had talked to several colleges. And this is data that like the only people who are getting the state are people who are like calling admissions rates. They haven’t published this, because they learned really quickly after they shared it, but like, oh, like, people don’t want to know that. So Amory, basically, you know, shared with him that they had a 17% admin rate in the 2020 to 2021 cycle. So this is our first COVID cycle, we have people who are seriously impacted. Like these are kids who literally couldn’t take the test. But the admin of those was tests was 17%, the admin rate without was 8.6% Colgate it was 25% with test 12%. Without Georgia Tech 22%, with tests 10%. Without even Vanderbilt was 7.2%, with tests and 6%. Without. So that’s one story. The other story, which we actually gathered for a recent video is we went through all the data, it’s exciting, just finally, all of these common data sets are coming out from this first kind of COVID era admission cycle. And we didn’t have this data before. Because again, schools are like, Oh, we won’t hold anything against you. And we’re really nice. And we’re not going to like, we don’t want to get sued and say that, Oh, we’re preferring people with a test when there’s kids who are like I’m you know, immunocompromised I can’t, I can’t test. Yeah, they don’t want to go there. So what we did is we took the percent, some statistics, we took the percent submitting SATs scores enrolled in fall 2021, the percent submitting AC T scores that enrolled then in fall 2021 of their freshman classes. And we added those two together. And obviously, it’s not a perfect percentile of the number of students that are submitting test scores. Even at some schools like MIT, we were over 100%. But we lined up, say the top ranked 50 schools that had submitted this data to the common data set. And we find that there’s a totally different story going on, you’ve got like this your, for example of who’s requiring tests, MIT’s requiring test produce basically saying you better send a test or else Yes, but we won’t go so far as saying like, Don’t whatever show at the top of our list of like most submitted at like 104%, you know, when we add these two percentiles together, which some people submit boats, that’s why it’s over 100%. And some people didn’t submit any. So I mean, likely this is actually maybe 12% of people submitted boats, who knows, but MIT is at 104%. Georgetown expected at 102. Because you had to have a waiver to not submit a test score to Georgetown, they basically said you have to get like you have to, you have to prove that you test. Right. So you’ve got these, you’ve got Georgetown, but then you also have Texas a&m at 100%. And Texas a&m, on their website says we’re test optional, we won’t hold it against you. So this is also part of the story. Texas a&m University of Notre Dame, you go to their websites, they just say we are test optional. And their percentiles are the same as like MIT and Georgia Tech. So it’s rational. It’s like activities optional, where


Lisa Marker Robbins  17:53

you have to do all the investigating to read between the lines, you know, here, so I live in Ohio, our state flagship Ohio State University, their test optional, but on their website where it explains test optional, they literally say, we find test scores to be highly predictive of who’s successful at The Ohio State University. Yeah, you know, Miami University just issued a statement at the beginning of August. And it said in years past, during COVID, they had a policy of scores could only help never hurt. And they announced officially in August of 22, that scores can now hurt. You know, we’re still test optional, right? You want to let you know that if you submit them, we’re no longer adhering to a scores can only help. So these underlying messages, they it sounds like you’ve unearthed a ton of them. Yeah, it scores do count, even when they it’s kind of a smoke and mirrors almost right. Totally. Yeah.


Brooke Hanson  18:54

I mean, and there’s other tools, surprisingly, at the other end of the spectrum, obviously, University of Washington is there, which isn’t surprising again, right? You talked about how Washington is like test blind until 50th percentile. So it makes sense, right? Yeah. But they’re also we have Pepperdine University. Right? Is it 22%, University of Arizona University of Oregon temple, SMU, right is only at 39%. So we’ve also got other colleges that you wouldn’t necessarily go Oh, yeah, I wouldn’t expect I mean, Grant Pepperdine is in California, but you can make the California argument. But there’s California colleges, USC is on the total other end of the spectrum. USB is way down on the other side of the list. So it’s, every school is kind of taking this. And what I always like to say to students, too, it’s like, I know you’re trying to play a game because you’re like, Oh, if I’m gonna go test optional, I have to figure out how to game this right, where am I gonna apply? We’re gonna make this test optional list. And this is kind of a tool that I’m throwing to my students and I’m saying, Okay, well, if that’s the conversation you want to have, here’s the data I found but but yeah, they’re playing a game but what I like to say is colleges are also playing a game and and they just got a curveball and they’re all hitting it in different ways. And You can’t even tell what way they’re hitting it just from their website. And even the state of that we have, like I said, this was seriously impacted here. This could shift right? There were gonna be some schools that were like over here compassionate, because they’re like, we can’t, we can’t be mean about this. It’s like people are at the health risk, right? Somebody could have had like their grandmother die of COVID or something. And they were like, really convinced. And that Dean, you know, yeah. And then down, everybody get vaccinated, like, suck it up, right? knows, this is what we know from three years ago, it’s maybe as a loose guideline, but we’re probably going to see some schools pop to the other side. And we don’t even know how it’s gonna be. So,


Lisa Marker Robbins  20:36

already, I’m like, okay, a year from now, we’re gonna have you back on. Because you’re keeping your finger on the pulse of year by year. How is this changing the data? Yeah, I’m looking at the data for sure.


Brooke Hanson  20:51

And we can share this and we’ll share this link with you, you can put it in to our to our table that we have. Absolutely, yeah, it’s super interesting. And then to meet to like, when you’re building the college list, there’s no way to know absolutely. Like what your chances are, if I apply tests optional to any school, it’s all a magic, right? It’s a magic hat. But what we can do is we can stay comparatively I can create a spreadsheet of like, here’s a bunch of colleges, compare them to each other and say comparatively, how many freshmen walking around this campus for test optional, versus how many freshmen walking around this campus for test optional? So when I do have these students that come to me, and they’re like, I want to do tests optional, I’m like, Okay, well, here’s my list. The farther down you get, the colder you get, the hotter the higher up, you get the warmer you get.


Lisa Marker Robbins  21:36

Yeah, I had a student that had gone through my launch Career Clarity program. And she’s at Ohio State University and honors, she applied with test scores. And she went around and hurt did her even less scientific survey than yours aware. She just was asking everybody she can not find a single student and the Honors College who applied test optional. That’s her anecdotal evidence, but she was specifically doing it to try to find out what was going on at this, you know, supposedly test optional school. Would you say?


Brooke Hanson  22:14

Yeah, I Oh, state is their total is 85%. On test admission, which is right on par with Harvard right below Michigan. So it’s right up there with sort of these IVs that are I mean, come on. So you think you should have a test score? Yeah,


Lisa Marker Robbins  22:31

yeah. Right. So 85% of students on that


Brooke Hanson  22:36

there’s an 85% as the some of the students who submitted SATs, and there might be some overlap, so it’s gonna be below 85%, maybe 71%? Maybe


Lisa Marker Robbins  22:44

somebody said, it’s not going to be terribly. Yeah.


Brooke Hanson  22:47

It’s not gonna be totally different. A majority.


Lisa Marker Robbins  22:49

I think it shows the trend is end of that continuum. Are you on? So if there might be a little bit of noise in the data? Yeah. If you think of it as a continuum of no test scores, test scores. Look,


Brooke Hanson  23:05

when you know, that top third or top quintile are Yeah, they’re up there, right.


Lisa Marker Robbins  23:09

So that’s why that’s what you have to pay attention to. So this whole COVID test, optional growth caused you to do this deep dive, right? Yeah. So it has moved you from pre COVID You were protest optional, even as a test prep professional, and you’re I was totally, yeah, you were cool with it. This kind of caused you to look deeper. And now you’re not protest optional.


Brooke Hanson  23:35



Lisa Marker Robbins  23:36

Do you think that say in 2000? Or 818 2019? Had you had cause COVID? Was your cause? But had you in cause back then or just thought to do the deep dive? Do you think you your mind would have even changed back then? Or do you think there’s something else?


Brooke Hanson  23:53

Well, I think it’s something else, you know, I think it’s that I am pro 10 to 20% of schools being test optional.


Lisa Marker Robbins  23:59

I’m a huge buffer.


Brooke Hanson  24:02

And I would still hold to that, you know, if 80% of top 200 performing colleges decided to go back to requiring tests. This is the thing that I don’t like, I don’t like when I have consults with students. And their parents say we need 350 points on our SATs for her to apply to medical schools. We got three months, sometimes senior year. What do you think? Not a good situation, don’t want to do very much homework, like maybe two hours. And I’m like, test optional. And I I also get kids who just sit there entitled on the phone and tell me I don’t want to do it. And they say well, how could I get in or like who do you use to get in test optional and what are they doing? And then their parents are funny, some crazy wow factor where they’ve got researchers they’re paying for three years to teach them how to do biomedical research so that they can win some science fair by science senior year, and it’s just as literally as circus. And I’m like your parents dumping money on like all these crazy things like their past. Yeah, because they’re just trying to find a hook. It’s just pushing the circus even further than it already was there. And not to say that there are amazing kids out there that have Wow factors there are there are individuals out there that I meet, that are genuine, that do it themselves that are like, fabulous. And then there’s kids also with privilege, who are also just fabulous and phenomenal. And yes, they have privilege, but they take advantage of every opportunity. I do not like what I see in terms of the attitude of students. And I do not like as an education professional when I am faced with giving people advice, that on occasion that advice is give up. I hate but I do not want to tell people to give up. And that is why I do not like living in a world that is 85% test optional. Because when you’re 85% test optional, it says if you can’t cut it, give up, hide it, game it, pretend you know fake it till you make it. It’s just perpetuating this idea that in our society, we report people who seem really great, not who are really great.


Lisa Marker Robbins  26:11

They’re manufacturing a hook instead of having a genuine one. So yeah, that’s a fantastic note to end on. Like, that is the heart behind this, the bigger message for how we’re raising our kids. What we’re instilling with their mindset, not only around testing, but it’s going to impact other areas of their life and their trajectory. And instead of being a can do positive mindset, what does this make possible? When we’ve got that high of a percentage, it does send a message that you and I as as people who love working with teens and inspiring them to something green, it undermines it.


Brooke Hanson  26:53

Yeah. And that’s, that’s the bottom line for me. So I want people to not give up I want people to try I want them to give their all and even with you know you adding COVID learning loss you and all this stuff. I want them to set a goal to work toward it and to feel like they’ve accomplished something


Lisa Marker Robbins  27:08

that right there is inspiring. Thank you super tutor TV. It’s your YouTube channel. That’s the best place to find you. Yeah,


Brooke Hanson  27:17

YouTube slash super tutor TV. You can also find us on Tik Tok, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter at Super tutor TV. We’ve also got a website, super tutor tv.com


Lisa Marker Robbins  27:25

Go down link to all of the things in the show notes. But you’ve got an easy way for people to find you and get me that dataset because we want to make that available to our listeners. Because at the heart of everything. And you know, with a college major and career coaching that I do, I’m like, I just want to set people up to make an informed decisions about their future and not just go into this blindly or leave things to chance. So we’re so aligned in that. Thank you, Brooke for being


Brooke Hanson  27:52

yeah, thanks so much, Lisa. It was great to be here.


Lisa Marker Robbins  27:57

Brooke is always a wealth of information when it comes to AC T and LSAT testing. I think she made a great case for your student to have a plan to try their hardest to get the best possible test scores to not only benefit their college admission chances, but to also instill that can do growth mindset. For your weekly college bound challenge that I want your family to complete as part of your weekly scheduled college bound conversation. I urge you to make a testing timeline and research test prep providers. The National Test Prep Association is a nonprofit whose members are highly ethical. I’m linking to their membership directory in the show notes as a resource for your family to find a test prep option that fits and remember, test optional policies and admission data continue to shift. So stay on top of those policies for the college’s your student is interested in. By the way, Brooks amazing work has inspired me to start building out the flourish coaching YouTube channel. So in addition to rating and reviewing the podcast to help resource more families, head on over to YouTube and subscribe to both of our channels. You’ll find the links in the show notes until next week. I’ll see you soon