SATs and ACTs and the Crazy New Normal: To Test or Not to Test?

The world as we knew it...

Forgive the cliché, dear reader: COVID19 has brought an end to the world as we know it.

Every minute of our lives has been altered, whether it’s our plans for breakfast, for our birthdays, or, of special interest to those reading this website, our plans for applying to college.

There is headline news — the radical changes in colleges requiring and not requiring SATs and ACTs — and news that will evolve as the weeks and months go by: Which colleges will open in the fall; which will have online learning; which will survive the economic upheavals all of this brings; and whether the crazy mad quest for college that’s driven high school and higher education for the last two decades will survive these myriad dislocations and financial hits.

Many of these questions will not be answered anytime soon. Just about the only certainty we know right now is how COVID19 has affected the byzantine culture of standardized testing. And that news is dramatic.

It was maybe two years ago that’s list of test optional colleges numbered about 700. Today, it’s 1130 – and in the last month, the additions include such selective schools as Tufts, Swarthmore, Cornell University, Amherst, Wesleyan, Williams, Middlebury, Haverford, Virginia Tech, the University of Texas (all campuses, it seems), and the University of California system — 9 locations, including UC Berkeley.

The institutions that still require SATs or ACTs include: Harvard, Yale, Princeton, Stanford, Columbia University, Barnard College, Dartmouth, MIT, Harvey Mudd, California Institute of Technology, Wellesley College, the University of Michigan (Ann Arbor), and the University of Pennsylvania.

Test optional means that you may submit your scores but you are not required to. As a practical matter this means that students who have high scores will most likely submit them – and other students will not. The result is that the institution’s SAT/ACT range will be extremely high, though it will not include the scores of all the applicants.

As far as when and where to take tests that are still required, this notice from Arborbridge, a leading test prep company, summarizes the ongoing uncertainties:

“The College Board cancelled the June SAT and Subject Tests worldwide, ACT announced extra summer testing dates pending public health restrictions, and both exams announced they would offer digital at-home testing in the fall if in-person testing is not possible. The organizations cited public safety and student anxiety alleviation as primary motivators in their decision-making processes.

There’s a new hope for New York testers. Normally, ACT does not administer the July test in New York State due to state laws that limit the number of total test dates in a year. But with April having been cancelled, we might see ACT able to finally give the July test in the state—if social distancing has lifted.

There are still many questions about an at-home test, and the ACT and College Board haven’t figured it out yet. In a recent webinar, ACT’s CEO discussed some of the options. They may proctor by webcam every student who takes the ACT. Or they might have students take the entire official test unproctored first—then have students take a short, 20-minute test of sample ACT questions with a proctor watching by webcam to “verify” the official test score. We’ll likely see more details by early fall. Until then, check out our latest blog posts for deeper analysis and recommendations on how students should respond to SAT and ACT changes.

As you can see, uncertainty is the only certainty here.

And then there are the application essays. We know that the Common App essay prompts for the coming year have not changed, but given the shake-ups in the world, supplemental prompts, which usually come out in early or mid-summer, may change.

If you’re looking for guidance in any of these matters, please send me an email or pick up the phone and we’ll talk, OK? I’m on the East Coast.

Take care of yourself and others ….

~ Liz 1-855-99-ESSAY.

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