by Sally Ganga, former admissions officer at the University of Chicago
As I talk with high school juniors and their parents, it’s clear that one of their biggest concerns around the COVID-19 situation is standardized tests. With the March, May, and June SAT and April ACT test dates cancelled, students are hoping to test sometime in summer but are aware that even that may not be an option in every state. Such uncertainty is stressful, to put it mildly.
However, there is good news. Remember that everyone is experiencing this crisis, and so the colleges are well aware of the challenges around testing. As a result, many colleges have announced that they will be test optional for students entering college in the fall of 2021.
Even before COVID, we were seeing more and more colleges go test optional. This year’s testing challenges are accelerating this process. Some universities, like Case Western Reserve University, Boston University, and the entire University of California system, have announced that they plan to do so just for the application cycle of students matriculating in Fall of 2021. Others, like Tufts University, are planning to try out being test optional for three application cycles, after which they will reconsider whether they want to continue that policy or reinstate their SAT/ACT requirement.
While many students who are having trouble getting a test date or who are not as strong at standardized tests will consider these changes good news, keep in mind that at some colleges and universities, being test optional comes with certain conditions for applicants. For example, some offer it only for students who have above a certain GPA, or don’t offer it for students applying into certain highly selective majors, like engineering or nursing. So it is always important to check each university’s admission website to understand any conditions.
In addition, SAT Subject Tests are being impacted. The SAT Subject Tests are recommended or required by only a very few institutions, and it looks like some of those will be changing their policies as well. For example, MIT recently announced that they will no longer be considering the SAT Subject tests, even if candidates have taken them already taken. We believe we’ll continue to see more policies like this, particularly over the next several months as COVID may continue to impact testing schedules.
Amidst all this news, keep in mind that most colleges do still require the SAT or ACT. Therefore, we strongly recommend signing up for the August test date for the SAT and July/September for the ACT in the hopes that they will happen.
Finally, be sure to check each college’s admission webpage for their testing policies, knowing that policies are in flux.
For more, visit our full list of COVID-19 resources.