COVID19 Brings Major Shake-up for SAT and ACT test requirements

Huge news in the world of college admissions! The dreaded SATs and ACTs may become historic relics, but not quite yet…. Here’s the latest from the Washington Post. Check back here for more news as it becomes available.

April 18 UPDATE: NYTimes: “So far, Harvard, Yale and the other high-profile universities of the Ivy League still require them, as do Stanford and highly selective colleges on the West Coast. But many of the schools that compete with those big names are moving ahead to make the tests optional.” READ MORE

APRIL 18 UPDATE: Because some universities still require SATS/ACTS, they may be offered at home. READ MORE

Here’s a summary: There are currently some 1130 “test optional” colleges and universities, including Amherst, Bard, Bowdoin, Davidson, Juilliard, Skidmore, and, in the works since last year, the vast University of California system. The list will be growing in the weeks to come because all standardized tests have been cancelled until further notice. UPDATE: Two hours after posting this article, the June SAT was cancelled and will be replaced by SATs in September and October, if it’s safe to do so.

Rather than eliminate the test score requirements, many colleges are taking the interim step of “test optional,” as a way of reviewing the results over time without actually reversing the policy.

However, it may be the most selective colleges will be the last to change their requirements, or they may not change them significantly.

For example, as of today, April 15, Harvard has not eliminated the SAT/ACT requirement or made Harvard “test optional,” but it has said that students do not need to take the SAT multiple times, and those who cannot take SAT subject tests “will not be disadvantaged.” This is a fluid situation. Please check with each college you’re applying to and note that the situation may change. A month or two from now, Harvard’s policy could be different.

By contrast, this is the notice posted on Yale’s website: Yale requires all applicants for first-year and transfer admission to report results from the ACT or SAT. At this time, we expect there will be sufficient opportunities for all applicants to complete the ACT or SAT before the next admissions deadlines. If Yale’s policies change, we will provide a public notice as soon as possible.

Again, this is an ever-changing situation, and policies may well change in the weeks and months to come. A student-led organization, Student Voice, is advocating to make admissions test optional for the upcoming year.

While the COVID19 crisis has accelerated the “test optional” movement for practical reasons, the movement to go “test optional” has been gaining ground for several years — because all too often high scores correlate with high income zip codes in which families have resources to get tutoring help for their children. Many colleges have found that the SAT/ACT scores do not correlate with college performance.

Let’s talk about what “test optional” means for the moment. It doesn’t mean that students cannot submit standardized test grades if they wish to. It is means that scores are not required and a student will be judged holistically without them.

Please note: It also means that a college’s SAT/ACT test range of admitted students can appear deceptively high because only students with high scores are likely to submit them. For example, when I look at Vassar College’s 2018-19 SAT Range for Math, it’s 690-770. The number is somewhat deceptive because only 418 students submitted SAT scores, out of 706 who were admitted and chose to attend.

For today’s list of test optional colleges, please consult the FAIRTEST website. From what I can tell, the list will only grow in the weeks to come.

If you’re a high school school junior or the parent of one and you want some help with application essays, the application itself, or college selection, please shoot me an email and find out more about my services. Liz@DontSweatTheEssay.com ~ Or give me a call (East Coast): 1-855-99-ESSAY.

And please STAY SAFE.

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