According to a report by PBS, the SAT started as a U.S. Army IQ test. In fact, it wasn’t even a normal part of college applications until the 1930s.
But this test, along with the ACT, made its way into the sphere of higher education as a way of evaluating the potential success of an applicant. As colleges face higher rates of adult students over the traditional recent high school graduate, policies have adjusted. Veterans are also reporting varied experiences with test requirements when applying to college.
So, once and for all, do ACT/SAT tests really matter for veterans?!?
Well, it depends.
There is a significant debate among educators on the usefulness of tests like the ACT and SAT for determining applicant potential. Some institutions have either stopped requiring test scores entirely, or only require partial scores for applications. (Take a look at this list of Test Optional Colleges.) Before you celebrate, be aware that most institutions still use the scores as part of their assessment.
When it comes to veterans, the requirement varies among institutions. With the Post-9/11 GI Bill, colleges are seeing a rise in the numbers of veterans seeking entrance into their institutions. In 2012, it was reported that 646,302 veterans or their dependents were using the GI Bill to attend college (Read: College After the Military).
Some, in an effort to attract and to standardize veteran applications, have waived this requirement entirely. Others do not use the score for admissions but for placement in English and math. For-profit institutions and community colleges have rarely required ACT/SAT test scores for admission, but may require some sort of placement test in lieu of it.
I contacted my own college, Seton Hill University, to find out their requirements for veteran admissions and how they see ACT/SAT concerning veteran applications. What I found out is that they tend to award credits for military experience. After this process, they find that these credits can add up to a transfer student status for the veteran. Since transfer students do not have an ACT/SAT requirement, these veterans who are evaluated to have at least 25 awarded credits did not need to submit test scores.
This is not unique to just Seton Hill University. Since the military has made significant efforts to qualify training for recognized college credit (such as the Community College of the Air Force), military transcripts are a form of inter-institutional transfer, making it possible for many veterans to skip the ACT/SAT requirement all-together, provided the school will accept these credits.
But when do test scores become important?
Of course, when a college absolutely requires it or …
ACT/SAT test scores can make a significant difference in colleges with highly competitive admissions. Ivy League schools like Harvard expect a test score with an application for both freshman and transfer students. Other competitive intuitions like University of California, Berkeley, which dedicates an entire web page to guiding the veteran applicant process, do not require a test score. However, they do warn that the application process is stringent and the more you can provide will be helpful.
In some cases, the ACT/SAT can also strengthen an application if other areas of the application are weak, such as past poor high school performance. A solid ACT/SAT test score coupled with evidence of professional excellence in the military can help sway an admissions counselor in your favor.
READ NEXT: School Matchmaker Tool