Juniors around the world explain that the hardest and most stressful part of their year is studying and taking the SAT or ACT. However, now with the pandemic in full steam ahead, some colleges are taking a different path. Today, there are 59 colleges that are test blind, meaning that they do not look at SAT and ACT scores even if students submit them, and the majority of colleges in the United States are now test-optional, meaning that you don’t have to submit your standardized test scores to be a candidate to attend that college.
Loyola University New Orleans announced that they were going test blind early in the pandemic. Only two other colleges had that status before this year. A statement by Nathan Ament, Chief Enrollment Officer, cited the difficulty some students faced in taking the SAT or ACT: “The spring and summer after a student’s junior year are typically when students prepare for and complete standardized testing. Currently, the SAT and the ACT test dates offered in the late spring and throughout the summer have been canceled. By removing the testing requirement, we hope to reduce some of the stress that might be caused by the college application process.”
Some of the more famed colleges have followed Loyola’s steps, such as the California Institute of Technology and the University of California at Berkeley. In fact, a California state judge suspended all of the other colleges in the state from considering SAT and ACT scores because of concerns over whether or not students with disabilities would be able to get the accommodations they need.
However, now that we know more about the pandemic, is that going to make it easier to take the standardized tests? Not so much. The SAT/ACT situation has arguably gotten worse – not better – since May. Both tests are now being given, but registering for the tests is difficult for many. Moreover, students have complained of last-minute cancellations at some test centers.
Kevin Myers, a spokesman for Reed College, a liberal arts college in California that used to require the tests, said going test blind seemed to be “the most equitable decision. If we really wanted to level the playing field, it seemed like the way to go.”
Berkeley’s policy states, “Berkeley has always used and will continue to use holistic review, which means there is no one sole factor on the application that will determine a student’s admission status. SAT/ACT test scores were not the only academic indicators available on the application to assess students. Other academic indicators will continue to be assessed in the review process, including grades, the rigor of a student’s courses, other non-required tests (SAT subject test, AP tests, IB test, etc.), and a student’s individual academic context.”
However, it’s not only colleges in California that are waiving the test requirement at the moment. Cornell University, located in New York, is suspending its testing requirements, explaining that because of the extraordinary circumstances, students may submit applications without ACT or SAT exam results starting in August 2021. Harvard University in Cambridge, Massachusetts is also not going to penalize students for not being able to turn in any standardized testing or Advanced Placement tests. “We know that there are fewer opportunities to take the SAT or ACT given the cancellations to date and you will not be disadvantaged in any way if you do not submit subject tests,” said Harvard in a statement. Regardless of the changes that are happening in the countries, Florida is the only state in the country where all of the state’s public universities are still insisting on test scores.
However, how will colleges evaluate what factors to look at when admitting a student into their college? Other Ivy League schools such as Princeton and the University of Pennsylvania have agreed that the standardized testing is just one part of their holistic review of the applicant.
In addition, this surge of halting the standardized tests has also sparked a reform for the schooling system and admissions processes as a whole. Groups of institutions all around the country have argued that standardized testing doesn’t accurately represent how intelligent a student is. As the great Albert Einstein once said, “Everyone is a genius. But if you judge a fish by its ability to climb a tree, it will live its whole life believing that it is stupid.” They argue that the schooling system has been evaluating people wrongly and is wasting potential just because students cannot do a couple of math problems in under 45 minutes. A study shows that there are around 1.3 million students that drop out of high school every single year. However, 4% of these dropouts happen to be intellectually gifted, meaning that we are losing around 50,000 of our brightest minds, the minds that may lose their chance to shape our world tomorrow because they do not fit the standards which the education system has set. Some people have gifts in specific areas which they are not able to show because of how straightforward and standardized the school system is.
Will schools continue to be test-optional? Will the reform for better evaluation of skills development in colleges in place of the standardized tests? Only time will tell, but for now, The majority of colleges have chosen to be test-optional.