What Does Test Optional REALLY Mean?

First...the big question...does test optional really mean test optional? At Olin, absolutely. 

We are proud of our open and transparent application process, and we value each student who applies to Olin. Our admission and enrollment processes reflect our values, and we treat each person with the utmost respect. In our holistic process we consider every word the applicant writes, every detail in the recommendation letter, every experience they share with us, every grade and course on the transcript. We are proud of our process and we are genuinely interested in learning about you as a student and as a person through all your application materials. Our small size really aids us in this pursuit. 

Under our test optional program, students choose whether to submit the results of either the SAT or ACT. If they do choose to submit, the scores are considered in their application review. If students do not wish to submit their scores, or do not wish to take the tests, we are equally fine with that choice.  

Second question....am I at a disadvantage if I decide not to send them? 

We can’t emphasize this enough: it is for the student to decide if their scores will be included in the academic information we will review as part of their application. And we also cannot emphasize enough, in no way are you penalized, or at a disadvantage, in the application process if you do not submit test scores!  

You might be asking this follow-up question... well, are they going to assume I received “bad” scores if I don’t send them? 

NOPE! If an applicant decides not to send scores, we are not making any “secret” assumptions about why that might be. I can promise you we do not speculate on the presence or absence of standardized test scores. It’s also important to keep in mind that test scores have only ever been one metric, or as I like to say, one ingredient in the apple pie. Even in the years where testing was mandatory, it was never an isolated factor in the review process. It was always placed in a larger context and in reference to your grades, the rigor of your curriculum, the school you attend, and more. 

So, you keep mentioning holistic review in this blog, what does that mean in practice? 

To go back to the pie analogy used above- we see you, and your application, as a full apple (or blueberry or rhubarb or whatever you prefer!) pie. There are a variety of ingredients, and each element brings something special to the final dish. The recommendations, the transcript, the extracurriculars, the essay- they all speak to different aspects of who you are. As we review an application, we are trying to use these ingredients to parse out your passions, values, and ways in which you could grow and contribute to the Olin community. Oliners often have overlapping characteristics- collaborative, empathetic, community-centric, curious- but the way these manifest and shine is different in everyone. By considering the entire pie, and how each ingredient contributes to the whole, we are best able to gauge fit for the Olin community. 

Our test-optional policy is in place for 2024-2026 fall enrollment, but stay tuned for developments beyond the 2026 enrollment. We hope that this helped unpack some of the questions and concerns surrounding Olin’s current test optional policy and we look forward to reading your application.  

And in honor of my pie references, Halloween, and the fact that we are an undergraduate engineering college, I’ll leave you with this.... 


What do you get when you divide a jack-o-lantern by its diameter? Pumpkin Pi