Do we really mean test optional?

Months ago, when the deepening impact of Covid-19 became apparent, the USC Office of Admission decided it would neither be wise nor safe to require applicants to go to testing centers in order to submit standardized test scores. As a result, for the upcoming admission cycle (students applying for the 2021-2022 academic year), we are test optional. That means we are not requiring SAT or ACT scores to be submitted as part of the application to us. This applies to students applying for our merit-based scholarships and homeschoolers as well. 

When we say optional, we truly mean it. This isn’t a secret wink or a code for something else. We want students to decide. Students who do not submit test scores will not be disadvantaged. It is their choice. If students are proud of their scores and want them to be considered, they can choose to include them. If students decide that they don’t want to send us test scores for whatever reason, we are sufficiently prepared to consider the merits of their applications without them. If confronted with two similar student profiles, we will not favor the student with a test score over the student without a test score. We are serious. We ask for so much information from students already. The test score is but one piece. 

When students apply to USC through the Common Application, they will be able to select whether they want test scores included. If they choose “no,” all test scores (even ones sent earlier) will be suppressed. If they choose “yes,” then we will see the test scores they choose to send us. We will superscore both SAT and ACT test scores. If students change their minds during the process, there is a window of opportunity for the student to contact the Office of Admission to make us aware of that change – but it must be before we review their file, so no later than the application deadline they have chosen (either December 1 or January 15).  

Additionally, we don’t require scores from the SAT Subject Test and AP/IB exams (unless they are used to demonstrate high school graduation). International applicants whose native language is not English will still be required to submit English proficiency exam scores at this time.  

If you have not taken an SAT or ACT yet, and there are little to no opportunities for you to do so, please don’t. We do not want you risking your health for an exam.  And if you have already taken the test or want to and can do so safely in the near future, then plan accordingly. Again, this is a student’s choice, like what topic you choose to write about in your essay. There isn’t a single universal topic out there that will get you admitted or denied or a single way to write it. Much of the same philosophy applies to test scores. So please exercise your choice with regard to you and your family’s safety and wellbeing. We at USC will not need those scores to make a comprehensive and thoughtful admission decision.