Updated: Feb 3
This is a question I've been hearing more and more often as the COVID-19 pandemic continues to disrupt standardized testing schedules. While Virtual College Counselors plans to keep our eyes peeled for updated testing policies on the university side of things, current high school juniors need to start planning their testing strategy.
An Important Consideration
The one thing that I want to bring to the forefront of this discussion is that no student should sit for these exams if it is not (or does not feel) safe to do so. If your school is still entirely online, and you need to go into the school building to take the exam, consider your own comfort levels with potential exposure. No student should risk their health or the health of others for these exams. If you are sick, stay home. If you know someone who is sick and plans to still test, encourage them to stay home and consider doing the same in case they decide to sit for the exam anyway.
Okay, So Do I Test or Not?
To answer the question, if it is safe to do so, we are currently advising students to take the exam when/if possible. As mentioned above, students should not test if it is not safe to do so. Students also should not have to travel long distances to a far away testing site if their local sites have canceled the exams (for example, do not test if it would require an overnight hotel stay, an adventure to a different state, or if it would require the student to wake up more than 3 hours before the test to accommodate driving time).
I know this isn't what most students want to hear, but hear me out for a minute. Firstly, while we anticipate the domino effect to take place sooner than later, at this current moment, not every school has spoken up about test policy changes. There is a short list below of the most recent schools to allow the class of 2022 to apply test-optional, but at the current moment, it seems most colleges and universities are waiting to decide about their policies until we move further into the Spring semester. At this point in time, it's important for juniors to keep all doors open, which means testing when possible. The worst case scenario is a student wastes a few hours of their Saturday!
It should also be noted that the most recent test-optional policy changes as a result of the global pandemic are impacting admissions in different ways, and the impact is school-dependent. Some schools, like the University of Chicago, have offered admission to roughly the same percentage of students who apply with or without tests scores. Other schools have admitted a disproportionate number of students who submitted test scores this year (as few as 7% of acceptance offers were for test-optional applicants at some institutions, despite there being a larger percentage of students applying without scores). I recommend keeping an eye on data from institutions of interest as they become available throughout the current admission cycle.
Ultimately, there are many schools that are already test-optional or test-blind. These policies aren't new to the higher education landscape--Bowdoin went test-optional in 1969, and they've managed to build an impressive class of students each year! That being said, we do hope that colleges continue to remain flexible to meet student needs.
Well, What About the Essay Portion?
I would be remiss to not mention the essay portion of the exam. As you might or might not know, The College Board announced recently announced that they would no longer be offering the optional SAT essay portion or the SAT subject tests. Students will have the option to complete the essay test in the USA through the June test date, but no more subject tests will be offered in the United States. If a student is so inclined to take the essay portion that they had already registered for, then go for it because it can't hurt and it keeps every door open. If a student wants to drop the optional essay portion, I support that decision as well. Currently, there are only two colleges in the USA that still required the SAT essay (Martin Luther College and West Point). I feel confident that those schools will be flexible about this policy given the cancelation from College Board. So, to answer the question succinctly: don't worry about the essay portion!
Testing Changes for the Class of 2022 as of 1/31/2021
California Institute of Technology (test-blind--no test scores will be seen in admission)
California State Universities
College of Charleston
Georgia Institute of Technology
Pennsylvania State University
University of Alaska
University of California (test-blind--no test scores will be seen in admission)
University of New Hampshire
University of Pennsylvania
University of Virginia
Fairtest.org maintains a list of colleges that are test-optional.
Good luck (but I know you won't need it),
Jessica Chermak, LPC, CEP
Independent College Counselor
Co-Founder of Virtual College Counselors