Because the effects of the coronavirus are widespread and long-lasting, those effects will impact many things in ways we cannot even imagine today.
Caught right in the middle of this crisis is the college admissions process. With millions of students across the nation at home and unable to go out, the College Board will have to modify AP testing, the SAT, and the ACT to ensure testing before students have to submit scores to college admissions officers.
On more of a time crunch than general standardized testing, the College Board held online AP exams in early May. While a small percentage of students found trouble submitting their results, the entire process demonstrated how these types of tests could be conducted online going forward, including for the SAT, which announced in April that if in-person tests are unable to be conducted in the fall, they will provide a “digital at-home SAT.”
Senior Associate Director of College Counseling Ms. Karen Ley said, “For [some colleges], it’s about equity and inclusion because not every student in the world has a private room that’s quiet with connectivity to do a home-based test, and I think that might be the main reason why this isn’t an acceptable option.”
In addition to concerns around accessibility to an online test, various questions have arisen regarding security and the overall necessity of the test in general, two concerns that have received increased scrutiny ever since last year’s college admissions scandal.
“I think the [SAT and ACT] have been dropping in relevance anyway,” Ms. Ley said. “[College admissions officers] said there was never one specific score or magic fast formula, and I think they’re really understanding whatever your situation is—even before COVID-19 if you weren’t able to get tutoring or get other things—so I think it’s kind of run its course and the fact that so many more [schools] are just [getting rid of SAT and ACT] for the next two to three years or forever wasn’t very surprising.”
With its popularity waning in recent years, many colleges planned to drop their SAT and ACT requirements. When both exams were canceled for March and May, the two largest months in terms of students taking the exam, colleges used it to lift their application barriers by removing the demand for standardized testing. Highly selective colleges such as Williams, Amherst, and Cornell, among many others, have announced that the tests would be optional for 2021 applicants. Among the elite colleges, however, there are still some holdouts, as the rest of the Ivies, besides Cornell, along with other highly selective colleges on the West Coast such as Stanford, have held firm in their standardized testing requirements.
Another dilemma discussed by students and college counselors alike is the importance of SAT subject tests. Most schools do not require them as part of the admissions process, but they are often recommended, along with an applicant’s other scores. This leaves many students in a hard position, especially if they still need to take another SAT in addition to subject tests.
“I am just hoping that I at least get to take even one of these tests.”Agustin aliaga 21
“I had already taken the Math 2 subject test earlier in the year but was still planning on taking the U.S. History subject test and perhaps even Spanish or Chinese,” Fifth Former Agustin Aliaga said. “Together with taking the SAT again, this accumulated to at least two or three test dates, most of which will likely be canceled. I am just hoping that I at least get to take even one of these tests.”
As reported by the College Board, even if tests are possible in the fall, subject tests may still not be available, as extra rooms are needed for those who still need to take the SAT itself.
“No, I don’t think [students] should [take SAT subject tests this year]. I think they should use these days for their SATs,” Ms. Ley said.
Nevertheless, some students, such as Fifth Former Matt Wang, who has already taken the SAT and “feels great that [he] got it done,” planned on taking a subject test in May or June, but he has since decided not to take the test in the fall. He explained that it is a huge disadvantage to have such a large time gap between taking a course and then taking a test on it multiple months later.
Whatever the case for each individual student, the hope is that colleges will take a holistic approach to each applicant, and just like everyone else, they are being affected by the virus as well and will take the necessary steps to make the best of a rough situation.