How will colleges view standardized testing in an age of coronavirus?
The novel coronavirus has upended all aspects of life and education as we know it. As every aspect of high schoolers educational experience is being moved into a virtual setting, prospective college applicants are left with one lingering question as they prepare to embark on their college journey during this uncertain time:
“What about my SAT’s?”
Here’s the bad news first. COVID-19 cases have been steadily growing in the United States and currently show no signs of stopping in the near future. Despite this, College Board has scrapped plans to offer online versions of SAT for high school students to take at home due to technological challenges. Instead, College Board released a statement saying they will be providing weekend in-person SAT and SAT Subject test administrations every month, beginning in August, through the end of the calendar year thus including a new September 26 testing date. In contrast, the ACT has announced plans for a “remote proctoring solution, allowing students to take the test online”. Thus, if you want to take a standardized test to boost your application but are worried about the health effects of COVID-19, we’d suggest studying for the ACT instead.
But how much does the SAT actually matter?
Now for the good news. The importance of standardized testing in college admissions has been a long debated topic. Proponents for standardized testing argue that standardized tests, such as the SAT and ACT, are the best predictor of a student’s first-year success whereas proponents against it argue that standardized test scores are largely influenced by socioeconomic status than intelligence and are not an accurate measure of a child’s ability to succeed. As a result of this fierce debate there’s been a trend, beginning with UChicago in 2018, of going test-optional in college admissions and focusing instead on holistic review of an applicant. Now if this pre-existing trend of deemphasizing the importance of standardized testing scores is considered under the looming giant of a global pandemic, standardized tests this year, and likely in the future, will be of less importance as admissions move more towards a holistic review of your application.
So what does going test-optional mean for my application?
First and foremost, it’s important to denote the distinction between test-optional and test-blind. Test-optional means that you the choice to submit your scores and they will be taken into consideration. In contrast, test-blind means colleges will not consider your scores at all. So with almost all schools– including but not limited to all UC’s, all Ivies, Stanford, MIT— going test-optional, what will that mean for your application?
1. Don’t Panic
This is an unprecedented time for everyone, colleges included! If you’re unhappy with your SAT/ACT score and had been meaning to retake it in June but had your test cancelled and don’t know what to do, first things first, take a deep breath. It’ll be alright. Both the ACT and College Board have announced the ability to change your registration free of charge in case your test date gets cancelled. Just sign up for the earliest available one and you’re all set. Similarly, College Board has urged member colleges to be “flexible toward students who can’t submit scores, who submit them later, or who did not have a chance to test more than once”. Even if every one of your test dates has gotten cancelled, remember, colleges will be very aware as thousands of high schoolers around the country will have gotten their test dates cancelled as well. After all, we’re all suffering under this pandemic together. As a result, colleges will be very understanding if you are unable to take or retake the exam for any reason and will not hold you accountable.
2. What the heck are holistic admissions?
Numbers do not define a person, nor do they provide a comprehensive understanding of an applicants background. Compare the below examples.
|Person A||Person B|
If you just base admissions off just a numbers game, then Person A would be a shoe-in at any elite university due to their perfect SAT score. However, universities, even during an age of COVID-19, aren’t looking for people with perfect stats. They’re looking for unique individuals with a diverse range of passions and backgrounds to craft a unique and vibrant student background. Similarly, only looking at stats neglects important context for an applicants background such as low-income, medical issues, family issues etc. Now take a look at the applications, this time holistically.
|Person A||Person B (test optional)|
-National Honor Society
-3 year member of coding club
-4 year member of Spanish club
-Member of HoSA
-Orchestra 4 years
No leadership positions
•Essays: Very bland essay not
showing much about who they are
and their interests
– Works part-time to
– Leadership positions in
marching band, actively involved
– Teaches music lessons to
•Essays: Great essay
connecting passion for
music with childhood and
•Context: Went to underfunded
high school which did not
offer AP. Took hardest courses available.
Once all factors are taken into account, person B would be the one to be admitted, even despite not sending in their SAT score. Not only does person B display much more passion and have a much more active role in all of their extracurriculars, but their high GPA and course rigor in relation to their high school shows they challenged themselves despite their environmental limitations. Thus, holistic admissions provides a context to who you are as a person and allows you to tell a story which only numbers cannot. After all, at the end of the day, colleges will want those who will thrive academically and culturally on their campuses and will determine that through a holistic review of your application.
As a result, in an age of coronavirus, it becomes even more important that you focus on polishing up your essays to perfection and developing substantive extracurriculars if you’re still a junior. Need help on essay editing? Don’t hesitate to reach out to us to get quality essay advising today.
3. To Send or Not to Send?
Short Answer: It depends.
If you are happy with your SAT/ACT score and believe it is an accurate representation of the time you spent studying for it, then by all means go for it. Having a good SAT/ACT score can only help your application.
However, if you’re not satisfied with your score and lack the means to retake it, or simply can’t take it at all, don’t worry not sending it will not hurt your application at all. After all, we’re all suffering the same pandemic together, so colleges will understand. If you want, don’t hesitate to explain your situation in the additional information section, however even that is not completely necessary.
Just remember, these are unprecedented circumstances for both you and the college, so they’ll understand! Do your best to enjoy your senior year to the fullest, and stay healthy!