SAT/ACT Cancellations and College Applications . . .
I am posting this in response to some of the recent
news from schools around the country.
The biggest changes that will be coming for the 2020-2021
1. Does this mean I will not have to take the SAT/ACT exam?
When most people see that behemoths like the University of California system are dropping their testing requirements, they immediately believe that the suspension of testing requirements means that they will not consider the exam at all. This is a justified response, particularly because the wording is not concrete. However, let me clarify that a "test optional" does not mean "test blind." For students who choose to submit ACT, SAT, SAT Subject Test, and AP exam scores, the UCs will still (as of now) consider those scores as part of the application process.
This relaxation of testing requirements is specifically designed for families and communities who have been hit by dire, unfortunate circumstances who may be in a position, or geographic location, that makes testing a near impossibility. Furthermore, with the backlog of students waiting to take an exam, it may be a possibility that not every student will have the opportunity to take an exam in the fall.
However, if it is within the realm of possibility for you, I believe it is in your interest to take a planned SAT or ACT exam.
2. Why should I take an exam if a bunch of schools are saying it's not required?
Test Optional does not mean Test Blind
Just because schools aren't requiring test scores doesn't mean that they won't consider them. If you are able to submit a score that is above a school's median profile, a good test score will only enhance your application.
Merit Aid is still linked to tests
There will be many programs -- universities and/or scholarship programs -- that will continue require test scores for merit-based scholarships
Unpredictability of admissions
With many schools going test optional, there will be the unintended consequences of increasing the applicant pool -- particularly of students who may have a high GPA but low test scores. With this added influx of students, many students who would have been admitted in prior years may end up waitlisted or denied next year. As such, you may want to have test scores as a security net so you can broaden net of schools that you plan to apply to. Of course, you may choose only to apply solely to test optional schools, but depending on how things shake out next year, that may or not be a feasible option.
With the option to remove testing from equations, there will be a new cohort of academically admissible students to the Cal State and UC systems. There are -- I kid you not -- schools where a 4.5 GPA is the average GPA. These students will have first dibs at schools in the temporarily "test-blind" Cal State system because of their stellar grades. However, what that means is that other students who were once eligible for Cal State programs, may no longer have first dibs at their choice of Cal State schools. They may have to shift their focus to other schools.
A good test score is still a good test score
While there are definite arguments over the validity of test scores in determining admissibility, these exams are still psychometrically normed. In plain English, that means a high test score still shows a level of aptitude that isn't necessarily coachable, and that only a small percentage of students are really able to get a "good" score. It takes a high level of reading, writing, and math ability to do well on the SAT and ACT. And while these skills are not primarily used in college, they still contribute to a solid foundation. Having worked with hundreds of students, my top scorers show a level of academic aptitude that they've worked hard for.
3. What if I did awful on the exam? Can I choose to omit my score?
Absolutely. If it is really impossible for you to take a test, or your situation is just not going to allow you to do so, it would be in your best interest to focus on the other things that you are able to excel at.
However, do note that without a test score, admissions officers will now be looking even more closely at the other components of your application -- activities, volunteer work, GPA, letters of recommendation, outside projects, etc. The lack of a test score will simply increase the importance of the other categories.
4. But how do test scores truly impact decisions?
This has long been a question that families have asked since the test optional movement started, and the answer is "it depends". Each institution has its own policies that determine how they treat tests.
Here are a few treatments of standardized tests I've seen among "test optional" institutions:
Test blind: Some schools won't even look at a test score if you were to wave it in their faces.
Merit-based testing: Some schools use the SAT/ACT score to determine scholarships, admission into the honors college, or other selective programs.
Test flexible: Some schools will ask for an additional essay in lieu of test scores.
Selective Test optional: Some schools will further look into your other accomplishments to see if they outweigh the lack of a test score.
I wish I could provide a solid answer for you, but given that admissions criteria are changing on a daily basis, any answer I could give today might be invalid tomorrow.
- Joyee Lin
Head Counselor, Test Specialist, Academic Coach