Trending: Are the SAT & ACT Really Necessary?

Transitions come in all shapes and sizes, and they happen for a variety of reasons. First-grade morphs into high school, Uber has upturned the taxi business, and landlines have lost out to cell phones. Transportation and communication will never be the same. Perhaps moms and dads won’t either.

SAT-scantronThe major shift affecting colleges these days is the diminishing requirement of standardized tests as part of the application process. According to WAMU 88.5 more than 850 colleges and universities across the country don’t require SAT/ACT test scores to gain admission. And that number is growing.

That’s the sign of a definite trend. What the end result will be, no one knows. In the meantime, the beneficiaries are college applicants who excel in other areas but not necessarily in taking standardized tests.

If your creative teen falls into this category you might want to take a second look at colleges that are test-optional or test-blind. The former schools will consider an SAT/ACT test score if submitted, the latter won’t even look at them.

colored pencilsThe National Center for Fair and Open Testing has compiled a comprehensive list of colleges that don’t require a standardized test. The schools on it come in all shapes and sizes from small to large, art-centered programs to general institutions, and private colleges to state universities.

What does this mean for your teen? Options abound – all across the country.


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The Sophomore Slump: 4 Tips To Keep Your Visual Artist Focused In High School

Typically referring to college, the sophomore slump can just as easily take place in high school. Even though high school has become a familiar place for your teen, now is no time to chill out. Colleges take sophomore year efforts and grades seriously. Your budding artist should too. So, how do you ensure that your teen avoids a second-year slump? A little bit of focus goes a long way.

Maintain your attention on grades. Colleges consider high school coursework and grades more telling than anything in their selection process. That being said, take note of the classes your teen is taking. Is she stretching herself artistically and academically? The most advanced studio and non-studio classes all have prerequisites. Honors Drawing and Painting preclude Studio Art and Independent Study just as Global History precludes AP U.S. Government. Now’s the time to reassess and refocus to ensure your burgeoning designer is on task to achieve her goals. Your high school guidance counselor and art teachers can help tweak her schedule and focus if needed.

NY Times

NY Times

Get ready for the SAT. Those bedeviling proficiency tests are looming. Whether an art school or university is in your creative’s future, taking them is necessary, and now is the time to get practicing. The PSAT and PLAN provide your teen with an introduction to the SAT and ACT exams respectively. These “practice” tests deliver real value: they lessen fears by getting your teen acquainted with what is unfamiliar and they convey an idea of the score range your teen can expect in next year’s real exams. Additionally, the PSAT is used to determine National Merit Scholarship awards. The PSAT and PLAN are typically taken in October. Check with your college counselor to know when your tests will be offered.

sophomore-yearEngage with your teen. Discover what he wants to study in college and uncover the type of college experience he envisions. Is a BFA or a BA the desired end result? The decision will impact the type of school he chooses. Does he prefer a large campus experience with a diverse student body and non-stop activities or will he thrive best in an environment that breathes art and design 24/7? Visiting colleges will give you and your student a sense for campus life as well as begin to define preferences for size and location. Pick diverse colleges to visit, make a plan about when you’ll tour, and use those long car drives to discuss his likes and dislikes.

Portfolio prep (c) ashcan school

Portfolio prep (c) ashcan school

Focus on portfolio development. This should be a top priority throughout high school regardless of where your teen applies. Many programs don’t require a portfolio for admission, but you’ll want to be prepared for either option. Also, just like muscles, repeated development and practice of artistic skills will only strengthen them. Your teen should be working with high school art teachers and engaging in outside artistic opportunities to broaden his abilities. Here the adage “practice makes perfect” definitely applies.

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The SAT & ACT Go To Art School

SAT ACT pencilsThis past Sunday, The New York Times Education Life section focused on the college admissions landscape, and the changes occurring in and around standardized tests. According to the Times, ACT test takers are on the rise and, more than ever before, applicants are choosing to submit scores from both the SAT and ACT as part of their college submissions.

Naturally, this piqued my curiosity. I wondered what role the SAT and ACT play in the admissions process at an art college.

As a right-brainer myself, taking standardized tests was never my forte. However, the SAT and ACT analyze how you think. Consequently, they play a critical role in the college admission process. Bottom line: you still need to take them.

Some schools, like the Pacific Northwest College of Art and Pennsylvania College of Art & Design, don’t require either test, but they are in the minority. David Sigman, Director of Admissions for Milwaukee Institute of Art & Design put it this way: “We strongly encourage students to submit standardized test scores, if they are available, but only so that the student’s application file is as comprehensive as possible.” In other words, the SAT and ACT are an integral part of the process. They help tell the story of the whole student.

According to Dustin Liebenow, Director of Marketing Communications and Enrollment Management at Pratt, the average ACT score for incoming freshmen is 26/27. The average SAT verbal and math score combined is 1200. Dustin summed up what I found at most other top art schools that require standardized scores; there is no minimum score threshold nor a preference for which test is submitted. Schools consider test scores along with the rest of each student’s application.

SAT ACT signageAnalytical thinking skills are a critical component to an artistic education. In order to succeed in any classroom students need to be able to objectively scrutinize what is being taught, whether in a studio setting or a liberal arts environment. “Professors want their students to succeed in the classroom,” explained Densil Porteous, Director of Admissions at Columbus College for Art & Design (CCAD). “Ability, portfolios, academic competencies and how students present themselves are all considered.” CCAD Assistant Director of Outreach and Recruitment Thom Glick explained further that standardized scores are reviewed with GPA and letters of recommendation in the academic section of an application. Portfolios make up the creative component.

Taryn Wolf, Director of Undergraduate Admission at Maryland Institute College of Art (MICA) got into the scoring details for me. At MICA, where the average ACT of enrolled students is up to 28 this year, the school considers individual ACT “sub-scores” and SAT “super-scores” for whichever test is submitted. What are sub- and super-scores? Consider them the parts that make up the whole, (a 580 in Math on the SAT or a 32 in English on the ACT). The benefit is if you take a standardized test multiple times and score higher in different areas each time, you can submit all your tests and the college will use the highest and best component scores. Yes, it means taking the test multiple times, but the end result is a win-win.

None of the schools I contacted could tell me whether they’ve actually seen a rise in ACT over SAT submissions, nor did any of them mention a rise in applicants submitting both tests. However, they all agree the exams are valuable. Even the colleges that don’t use them when considering admissions find them helpful when considering scholarship opportunities.

So what does the future look like in the world of the ACT and SAT? Changes are afoot for both. 12 states now require (and pay for) their public high school juniors to take the ACT. I’m guessing more will follow. And, beginning in 2015, students will be able to take the ACT on-line. The folks at College Board, managers of the SAT, are making changes as well. They say “the heart of the revised SAT will be analyzing evidence.” Stay tuned.

If you’re at all like I was, taking these structured tests can seem daunting. Remember that even though they’re necessary, they are only one part of your application picture. With a strong portfolio and dedication to your academic grades, you’ll end up at a great school and be able to pursue an education in the world of art.

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