Many aspects of college admissions have changed in response to Covid-19. Juniors and seniors in high school may need to create college lists and make decisions about where they want to spend the next four years without visiting campus.
And – perhaps the most unsettling change felt by applicants and admissions offices alike – the standardized testing landscape is undergoing a total metamorphosis.
What do we know? What’s still uncertain? What actions can you take to best position yourself for future success?
Upcoming test dates: Changes and Cancellations
Both the College Board and ACT organizations cancelled their respective SAT and ACT tests during the spring and early summer due to Covid-19. Once testing resumed, a few test dates were added in the fall to provide students with additional availability. However, the constantly evolving impact of Covid-19 on safety considerations has resulted in ongoing cancellations, leading to an environment of uncertainty and stress for applicants.
The College Board scheduled test dates every month from August through the end of the calendar year. However, individual test centers must adhere to local public health guidelines and, therefore, make their own decisions about whether to administer the test. Some test centers are announcing closures right up until the test date! As stated by the College Board, “test centers may close or make changes on short notice, including on test day, and they may even close for the scheduled makeup date.”
Upcoming SAT test dates: November 7, December 5, March 13, May 8, June 5
ACT added test dates in September and October. Similar to the College Board, ACT does not have control of individual test centers. Be sure to check your MyACT account frequently to stay up to speed on the latest availability of your test location and your registration.
Upcoming ACT test dates: October 24 & 25, December 12, February 6, April 17, June 12, July 17
Will there be online testing?
In the spring, both the College Board and ACT discussed the possibility of at-home testing options, but no further developments have been announced regarding a remote format.
For the ACT, new test options are under development, including faster results, section retesting, and remote testing.
In June 2020, The College Board announced that they would postpone plans to offer an online version of the SAT due to the technological challenges and inequity involved, no doubt influenced by the problems experienced during the launch of at-home AP exams last May.
Impact on Colleges and Admissions
As a result of the limited availability of standardized testing due to Covid-19, colleges have reevaluated their admissions policies concerning testing requirements. There has been a significant increase in colleges becoming test-optional, with a few colleges becoming test-blind or test-flexible.
According to FairTest, The National Center for Fair and Open Testing, “nearly all of the nation’s most selective universities and liberal arts college” have become test-optional this application cycle, which means that the ACT or SAT is not required, but will be considered if submitted. Several colleges, including Amherst and Cornell, have announced that they will be test-optional for just the Class of 2021. Other colleges, such as Middlebury, Oberlin, and Tufts, said they would launch a 2- or 3-year pilot of a test-optional policy. Additional colleges, like Case Western and Chapman will now be test-optional for the foreseeable future.
Another option that some institutions have moved towards is a Test-Flexible Policy, in which the SAT or ACT is not required if the applicant can support his or her application with other documents, such as AP or IB exams, SAT Subject Tests, a graded paper, or an expanded resume. New York University has one of the most flexible policies of any college. Prior to Covid-19, students had the option to submit any of the following: SAT, ACT, three SAT Subject Test scores, three AP exam scores, or three IB higher-level exam scores. In light of Covid, NYU will not require any test scores, but will welcome them from students who wish to submit.
In addition, some schools have adopted a Test-Blind Policy, in which the admissions office will ignore ACT and SAT scores even if applicants submit them. These include nine of the University of California campuses, including UC Berkeley, and all CUNY campuses. In addition, small liberal arts colleges like Dickinson, Hampshire, and Reed are test-blind for at least this year.
Visit FairTest.org for a complete listing of 900 top-tier institutions that have deemphasized the ACT and SAT in admissions decisions.
In response to all of this uncertainty, as well as inequity due to varied access to testing, the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) released a statement with the support of more than 500 colleges: “Together, we strongly endorse a student-centered, holistic approach to admission that will not disadvantage any student without a test score.” A holistic approach means that colleges will evaluate all aspects of the application: grades on the high school transcript and the rigor of a student’s courses, the personal statement and any supplemental essays, extracurricular involvements, letters of recommendation, and even demonstrated interest. (For ideas on how you can demonstrate interest, check out our blog, “Researching Colleges During Covid-19”).
Our Recommendations for Juniors and Seniors
High school juniors and seniors are facing all of these changes head on. To best position your candidacy, we recommend that you:
- Research each college’s policies about standardized testing.
- Register for several upcoming standardized test dates to maximize the chance that you will secure a spot. Seniors: December scores are typically considered for Regular Decision.
- Focus even more on your coursework. Be diligent about completing your work.
- Strengthen your relationships with teachers. Your teacher recommendations will play an even more important role. Seniors: if you have a strong relationship with a 12th grade teacher, you can request that they submit a recommendation to colleges that allow more than two teachers.
- Demonstrate your interest at the colleges you are considering by attending virtual tours, information sessions, events, and student panels.
The college admissions landscape is more uncertain than ever. As always, we’re happy to guide you through this new reality and help you position yourself to maximize your candidacy.
To learn more, join us for our Zoom presentations on Changes in Standardized Testing on Wednesday, October 28, from 6-7 pm EST and Crafting Your College List on Wednesday, November 18, from 6-7pm EST.
Explore all of our upcoming presentations on our website or set up a complimentary consultation to learn about our admissions consulting services. Whatever your question, Collegiate Gateway is happy to help!