As many schools go test-optional, seniors cannot help but think about the consequences


Photo taken by Mariam Hanna.

Alyssa Hart, Co-Editor-in-Chief

It’s test day: Sweaty palms, number two pencils, and calculators are in high quantity. Standardized tests such as the SAT and ACT top off the typical college application, and give colleges a better idea of the applicants’ academic ability. However, due to the changes surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic, the requirements for standardized testing have taken a turn. 

Traditionally, SAT or ACT scores have been a requirement both to graduate and to apply to college. This has changed as standardized testing for some universities is now being waved or voided completely; these alterations have changed the future for many high school students looking to get into college.

Due to the Coronavirus outbreak, testing opportunities have been more scarce for high school students. Throughout the spring and summer of 2020, SAT and ACT tests were all cancelled in order to ensure the health and safety of students. Resultantly, the class of 2021 was very behind in getting standardized test scores they needed to apply to college the following fall. 

Limited capacity tests were available starting in August, but they were in short supply and few people could get a seat. This was not ideal considering August is usually when seniors start the college application process.

Many colleges around the United States recognized this issue and have altered their application process. Over one thousand colleges and universities around the country have altered their requirements pertaining to standardized testing. 

Many colleges around the United States have declared themselves as “test-optional” schools, meaning applicants will not be required to submit a standardized test score. This included multiple Ivy league universities, where SAT and ACT scores are typically heavily analyzed, such as Harvard, Cornell, Princeton, and the University of Pennsylvania.  

This development brings up many questions regarding the new admission process for universities. One being, will students who choose not to submit a standardized test score be at a disadvantage compared to those who do? 

The short answer is no. In a statement from Harvard University, “You will not be disadvantaged in any way if you do not submit subject tests.” With the new test-optional policy, colleges will be placing more weight on other aspects of the application; such as personal essays, letters of recommendations, transcripts, extracurricular activities, volunteer work, and hobbies.

However, this isn’t to say that having a high SAT score won’t help applicants at all. Providing a standardized test score can help colleges get a better idea of academic performance, and could also help decide where scholarship money goes. This is only true when the standardized test score is above average for that college, and doesn’t really apply if the score is at or below the schools requirements. 

Comparatively, some universities are declaring themselves as “test blind,” meaning that they do not consider standardized test scores at all. Even if an applicant were to submit a perfect 1600 on the SAT or a 36 on the ACT, it would play no role in whether or not they were admitted. 

Some notable colleges with this policy for the 2020-21 admission cycle are California Tech.,  UC Berkeley, and San Diego State. Yale University is also becoming subject test blind for this admission cycle. The idea behind this is to make sure that students are being considered fairly, so students who were able to take a standardized test don’t have any advantage over those who were unable to due to the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Not only has the pandemic affected how colleges consider standardized test scores for this year, but some colleges have made more permanent changes by instituting this policy for multiple years into the future. 

As the U.S. continues to adapt to the ever-changing circumstances, it is possible that this pandemic will change the way standardized test scores are considered for years to come, making the college admissions process more personalized and flexible for good.