Is Optional Really Optional? Beware of Leaving Out “Optional” Elements in College Apps

Growing up with the internet, you’re used to those forms that have stars next to the mandatory questions, with optional being just that—optional. However, when it comes to “optional” on college apps, it really may not be in your best interest to skip it. Here are a few examples of things that some colleges say are optional, but you may not want to leave it out.

College Interviews

At some schools, college interviews are mandatory, but at a number of others, they are listed as “optional.” Skipping it could save on stress, but it could also put a damper on your college application. Even though it isn’t required, completing the interview will demonstrate interest in the college and gives you a chance to really show off what you can bring to the school.

In addition to possibly increasing your chance of acceptance, you will also have the opportunity to ask questions of your own. Generally, the interviews are with alumnus of the college, so they can give you true insight into classes and life on campus.

College interviews with an admissions officer can be a bit stressful, so be prepared and practice before you head to one. However, even if you’re having anxiety about the meeting, remember that it could bolster your chance of success. If you’re sincerely interested in the college, don’t skip it!

Essay Portions of the ACT or SAT

While the SAT no longer considers the essay part of the exam mandatory (and the ACT never had it as a mandatory in the first place), schools are actually divided on whether the writing section is optional or not. By completing the optional writing test, you can have yourself covered for any application you submit.. It can absolutely cover all your bases and will only take up 50 minutes of your time! It’s definitely worth it.

In addition to taking care of any application you submit in the next year, taking the essay portions may also give your final grade a boost if you do well.

The Entire ACT or SAT

Some schools actually consider the entire ACT or SAT test optional. While they’re definitely in the minority, they do exist. Since there are so few schools that consider these tests optional, you may be doing yourself more harm than good by limiting yourself. Taking the exams will allow you to branch out to different colleges. However, these schools can be a great route if your ACT or SAT scores are extremely low, yet you have great grades from high school.

Other schools around the country will pick and choose the best parts of your ACT or SAT (also known as a superscore), allowing you to submit evidence of your stronger abilities. This can show you in the best light possible. Just because one school doesn’t require the exams, it doesn’t mean you should skip them all together!

Many colleges and universities around the United States have optional portions of the applications, from interviews to entry exams. However, by skipping them, you could be putting a damper on your acceptance chances or other college applications that require the test scores or essay portions. It depends on the school, but almost all “optional” portions of an application can only help you increase your chances of acceptance.

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