A person’s hand writing notes on paper.


Unit exams, chapter tests, quizzes, standardized tests, AP exams, IB exams: the list goes on. As much as someone may love learning, testing may not always be an enjoyable part of education. However, a huge part of attaining an education involves testing. The college admissions process is a time when many students feel enormous pressure to get certain scores on standardized tests to achieve their goals. Sometimes it feels like your entire profile depends on a number, a score. Thoughts of failure, nervousness, questioning preparedness, amongst others, cloud your head leading up to tests. You arenʼt alone! It’s important to remember that you aren’t the only one in the room feeling this way and a number does not define you. 

You Are Not Alone

Exam seasons are stressful. For some, tests are an enjoyable experience. Preparing for them can feel like a routine: gathering study materials, reviewing, practicing, and voilà! Personally, that routine is less of a straight line for me than I hoped it would be. No matter how much I prepare a month, week, or day before an exam, I feel a chill down my back when I head the word “test” or any of its synonyms. 

The college application process was something I was excited about. Every part of it, except the standardized testing, reminded me of how thrilling the idea of college was. I dreaded the exam and was not in a position to afford tutoring or other extra resources to help me prepare. I am just not a good test-taker. But I did not let this ruin my path to college. At the time I felt very alone. My friends were doing superbly better than me on these exams, and I didnʼt achieve the scores I wanted. 

Since I am writing this as an NYU student, it is clear that my performance anxiety did not hinder my ability to get into NYU. However, while awaiting admissions decisions, I felt my test scores were the biggest weakness in my application. My first year was an adjustment as a whole, but I realized that I wasnʼt the only one dealing with test anxiety. I spoke to fellow classmates and other friends I made over time who face the same struggles I do. I felt validated! Whether you arenʼt feeling confident in your performance or feel that you do not have the resources to reach your goals, remember you are not alone.  

Holistic! Holistic! Holistic!

During the application review process, it is likely you will come across the word “holistic.” What does this mean exactly? A holistic application review is one that fully considers each part of your application to understand who you are as an applicant. 

At NYU, we conduct holistic reviews of each application. We want to get to know you as a person and see how you would contribute to our vibrant student body. Additionally, NYU will also remain test optional for the 2021–2022 admissions cycle. Itʼs not a trick! If you feel that your test scores will supplement your application, and you feel confident in your performance, shine on and submit! However, if you donʼt feel this way, do not risk hindering your application by submitting something you arenʼt confident in. Take advantage of these options so you can put your best foot forward during application season. Check out our website for more information about how to apply. 

If you are interested in having your application reviewed holistically, apply to schools that will do so. It is very easy to feel defined by a number. Do not let your score deter you from applying somewhere. You are worth it!

Rhythm and blues duo Chloe x Halle saying, “You got this,” to offer support.

Tests Are Inevitable

If there is one thing I have taken away from my past two years of college, itʼs that tests arenʼt going anywhere. I dream of pursuing a career in medicine and have plenty of standardized tests waiting for me. Whether your career path has tests or not, their equivalents will follow you pretty much anywhere. You will feel challenged and even sometimes anxious. Overcoming that anxiety and pushing yourself to succeed to the best of your ability is really the best you can do. Find comfort in doing your best and remember that growth happens when you are uncomfortable. It may take time to learn more about yourself and what you need to succeed; but we arenʼt supposed to be good at everything the first time we do it. 

Michelle Alvarado (she/her) is a rising sophomore in the College of Arts and Sciences pursuing a Bachelor of Science in Global Public Health with a concentration in Biology and minoring in Social Entrepreneurship. Originally from New Jersey, Michelle came to NYU as a first generation college student aspiring to earn her degree in the city that never sleeps. When she isn’t working on campus as an Office Assistant or Admissions Ambassador, Michelle can be found admiring NYC dogs or studying at her favorite coffee shop near campus. She is a member of a Panhellenic sorority, Kappa Kappa Gamma, and Hall Council. Michelle is passionate about helping others and hopes that by sharing her journey, she can inspire others to chase their dreams.