• Alison Merzel

Admissions with or without the SAT or ACT: What does this mean for you?




It seems like every day we hear a new announcement about the SAT and ACT - cancelled test dates have prompted many schools to announce a test-optional admissions policy for the 2020/2021 admissions cycle and now the College Board and ACT are exploring the possibility of offering in-home testing. What does this mean if you are a junior, preparing to apply to college in the fall or winter?


The good news is that this is unchartered territory for everybody. I am in weekly zoom calls and discussion forums with other educational consultants and admissions officers - everybody is trying to figure this out as we go, as there is no rule book for the situation we find ourselves in. So, here is my best advice:


1) If you have taken the SAT or ACT and are satisfied with your scores, fantastic. The admissions committee will still review your test scores alongside the rest of your application material. Strong scores can still help communicate aspects of your academic aptitude to a school and help them determine whether you will be a successful student at their school. Furthermore, most admissions officers are comfortable evaluating test scores in the context of an application - the absence of the test scores is going to make their job more complicated. An applicant who submits strong test scores will be providing information to the admissions committee that they are used to reviewing - the extra data point (the test score), particularly a strong one, is likely to help even more this year.


2) If you are not satisfied with your existing score and are typically not a strong test taker, you may just catch a lucky break. Since so many schools are waiving the test requirement, you are most likely going to get the chance you were hoping for - the opportunity to have your application reviewed without that weak link. In the absence of the test score, schools are going to look that much more closely at the rigor of your academic record and your grades to assess whether you will be a fit for the academic rigor of their institution. Take another look at the courses you selected for your senior year and plan to work hard - the senior year fall semester schedule and grades will likely play an even larger role in the evaluation process than in the past.


3) If you were hoping to retake your test to aim for an even higher score, you still may get that chance. This is the biggest question mark, but it is likely that either in late summer or early fall, the ACT and SAT will be offered in some manner. According to College Board, "if it’s safe from a public health standpoint, we’ll provide weekend SAT administrations every month through the end of the calendar year, beginning in August. This includes a new administration in September and the previously scheduled tests on August 29, October 3, November 7, and December 5." Continue to monitor these updates from CollegeBoard and ACT to evaluate future testing opportunities.


While the way different schools will use standardized tests is uncertain, something that is a definite given the changing admissions landscape will be the focus on the admissions essays. While the essays do not help the admissions committee evaluate the academic aptitude of the student, they will absolutely help communicate a student's level of interest in the school, understanding of the school's unique offerings, and potential to contribute to the campus community in a meaningful way. An added benefit - essays are a piece of the application that you can completely control.


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