Test optional. Given factors like the pandemic and concerns that standardized test scores can be impacted by economic and racial disparities, more and more institutions are waiving their SAT and ACT requirements. (See this Washington Post article for more context.) 

So, how does this influence the ways you factor College Board data into your decision-making? 

“The level of importance of standardized testing has definitely dropped a bit — but College Board data is still valuable,” said CJ O’Donnell, account director at Net Natives. “Throughout my career as a director of enrollment communications and director of admissions operations, I always used College Board data to increase enrollments in new geographic markets or to help find students for new academic programs.”

As you use College Board data in the months to come, here are a few insights O’Donnell wants you to consider.  

Insight #1: Understand the pandemic influence 

More than 1,700 four-year colleges have announced plans to make standardized tests optional for fall 2023, according to the National Center for Fair and Open Testing (FairTest). For example, Stanford University, Northwestern University, and Boston University have all announced that they will remain test optional through the high school class of 2024.

But why? O’Donnell believes that the pandemic played a large role in this decision.

“When students couldn’t take standardized tests in-person in 2020, many colleges and universities waived the requirement,” she added “What we’re seeing now is tied to this COVID-related decision.” 

And the data seems to reflect that students are taking advantage of the waived requirement. About 20% of applicants had no recorded SAT or ACT score, based on data from the Admissions Research Consortium of the College Board (the not-for-profit organization that administers the SAT). 

“That’s a 30% decrease from 2019,” O’Donnell said. “With that being said, I’d advise you to use this information to help you make decisions about offering, extending, or modifying test-optional policies at your institution.” 

Insight #2: Stock your pond

One of the ways O’Donnell suggests you use the data is to “stock your pond.” 

“What I mean by this is that you can use the College Board data to shape your class with prospects that meet specific requirements,” she added. “For example, if you want to have more people from a specific geographic location or with a particular academic interest, you can use the data to help you find these individuals.”

To accomplish this type of “shaping,” O’Donnell said you should first look at focusing — or enlarging — your buys of College Board names that best fit what you are trying to enhance in your class.  

“An example of this is working to sell other aspects of your institution to a prospective student who is already interested in that type of program,” O’Donnell added. “So, if you’re trying to reach a prospective student who is interested in game design, computer programming, or cybersecurity, you might want to promote your institution’s eSports club or team.”

Insight #3: Look to CBOs 

Once you’ve stocked your pond, you may want to augment College Board data by partnering with local organizations to further grow your prospect pool. One underrated resource O’Donnell suggests using is community-based organizations, commonly referred to as “CBOs.”  

But what exactly do CBOs do? CBOs work closely with students and families in underserved communities to help position college as a real possibility for them. For example, they provide resources that range from curriculum planning to financial aid guidance and community mentorship. Also, CBOs frequently assist with getting students registered for standardized testing exams and often provide access to test prep services.

O’Donnell suggests using the National College Attainment Network, Coalition for College, and College Greenlight to find CBOs in your target areas. 

“When you’re trying to find ways to get to underrepresented students and get them in your prospect pool, CBOs that work deep within the communities your university may be targeting are a great resource,” she added.  

Insight #4: Use AP scores

According to O’Donnell, scores on Advanced Placement exams, which are administered by College Board, are another helpful resource that you can use to target prospective students who have expressed some level of interest in your institution. 

“Don’t forget that students can choose only one school to send their scores to for free,” she said. “An affinity toward your university years before they might be able to attend is a big deal.” 

According to O’Donnell, there are a few ways you can capitalize on early affinity. For example, you can share information about recruitment events in their areas or on your campus to get them connected with you early on. Or, you can reach out to them about your academic programs and share your institution’s so-called “points of pride.” High-scoring students are generally very focused on academics, so hearing about your honors program might be really interesting to them, too, she added. 

“This kind of connection early on gives you more time to establish a relationship with these students — which can really benefit your institution in the end,” O’Donnell said.  

Do you have additional questions about using College Board data, or could you use some help with your enrollment marketing? Give us a shout, and let’s start a conversation.