How much is the SAT going to matter with elite universities (most of which are test optional now)? I heard from many that “test-optional” is just a PR move, and that good scores now will give you even more of an advantage than before. Is this true?
The new system will not affect the average applicant. A top score will still be a requisite of admissions to elite universities in almost all cases.
A good score will only give you a higher advantage now if you assume that other applicants do not submit a score. I would say a better way to think of it would be: not submitting a score will be a disadvantage.
For a deep-dive into this topic, take a look at this article.
In short, the policy was intended for those students who would be severely burdened by having to take the SAT or ACT—students for whom it would be unreasonable to expect a competitive score, but who otherwise are top performers academically.
What kinds of students fall into this category? Consider the student from a very low income family who has to spend his non-in-class hours working to support their wellbeing. A student like this should not be expected to have time and resources to study for and perform well on the SAT or ACT.
But consider a student who has regular tutors, plays club sports, and has been playing the piano since he could walk. Such a student should, and would be expected, to find time to prepare and perform well on the SAT.
In short, this policy changes little for the vast majority of applicants.