Students who are applying for admission to the College of Charleston for fall 2021 can choose to have their application evaluated without SAT or ACT scores.

“We’ve suspected for some time that SAT and ACT scores are not always the best predictor of a student’s success at the College of Charleston,” according to Suzette Stille, interim vice president of the Division of University Marketing and Enrollment Planning. “That is why a student’s grades and rigorous coursework have always been the primary drivers in our admission selection process.”

Stille continues, “That approach to evaluating applications will continue this year, and will be especially helpful for those high school seniors who feel that SAT or ACT test scores do not adequately reflect their level of academic achievement, or who, due to disruptions caused by COVID-19, may not be able to take the SAT or ACT test this year before they submit their application.”

There are some applicants who will have to submit test scores, says Stille, including those who are home-schooled.

Applicants to the Honors College will not be required to submit test scores. The Honors College has historically used a holistic review process that emphasizes transcripts and supplementary documents rather than a test score, and students applying test-optional to the College will not be disadvantaged in the Honors application review process.

How a test-optional decision will impact scholarships is a major concern for many students and families. The state of South Carolina does require an official SAT or ACT test score to award state scholarships (LIFE, HOPE, PALMETTO FELLOWS), but students can apply as test-optional candidates and submit those scores after they have been admitted. Students who choose not to submit test scores will be considered for College of Charleston merit-based scholarships.

This year, when students first apply to the College of Charleston, they will decide whether or not they want the College to use test scores as part of the application-evaluation process. If students have already sent test scores to the College, but apply to be test-optional, then their scores will not be used in the review process. The College of Charleston application will open Aug. 1, 2020.

According to College of Charleston President Andrew T. Hsu, the current situation has placed many universities in a unique situation vis-à-vis their incoming students.

“Among other things, the postponement of previously planned sessions of the SAT and ACT has caused us to review our existing admission process,” says Hsu. “At the College, we value the individuality of our students, and in some respects that approach begins when they apply for admission.

“Some high school students perform very well on the SAT and ACT tests. Others feel that their academic performance in rigorous coursework is a better indicator of their ability to succeed in college,” Hsu continues. “Although the College typically takes a holistic approach to the application review process, the unusual circumstances this year allow us to evaluate the extent to which a student’s academic performance is a better predictor of success at our university.”

Next summer, the College of Charleston will examine the results of this year’s test-optional pilot program and determine whether or not to continue or expand it for the next admission cycle.