COVID-19: More Colleges Go Test-Optional
Recognizing that the coronavirus crisis has caused massive disruptions to the lives of current high school students (along with the rest of the world), many colleges have already come forward with admissions-related policy changes, particularly in the area of standardized testing requirements. All of the changes were made to benefit the high school Class of 2021 and some extend to the Class of 2022 as well. To get you fully up to speed on these developments we will cover:
- The latest information about future SAT and ACT testing dates
- Which colleges have already changed their testing policies
- Impact on SAT Subject Tests
- How to use this information in your college search/admission process
We will begin with the status of future tests straight from the College Board and ACT.
SAT and ACT changes as of April 2020
The May 2nd SAT administration has officially been cancelled by the College Board. Looking forward to a potential June test, the College Board says: “Currently, the next SAT is scheduled for the first weekend of June. We’re working with test centers and we’ll decide whether we can safely hold that administration as soon as it’s feasible, given the evolving public health situation.” They have also pledged to add additional testing dates, presumably over the summer.
Looking ahead to the 2020-21 school year, there are also test dates of August 29th and October 3rd, both of which will have results back by the time EA and ED applications are reviewed by colleges. Of course, with health experts warning that the epidemic could also impact this upcoming fall, the College Board has already promised to work on some type of alternative testing method, as they have done with AP exams). They stated that if “…schools cannot reopen this fall, we’re pursuing innovative ways to ensure all students can still take the SAT this fall. We’ll provide updates about those plans if they become necessary.”
The ACT “rescheduled its April 4 national test date to June 13 across the U.S. in response to concerns about the spread of the coronavirus (COVID-19).” Those who were registered for the April test should have already received instructions for selecting a future testing date. The ACT also has a test scheduled for July 18th. While details are still in the works, the ACT has stated that it is “committed to making every effort to help students impacted by this test date change, particularly seniors facing college application deadlines for this fall.”
Colleges going test-optional due to coronavirus
Over 15 universities have already announced an official policy change that will be in effect for next year’s senior class; other schools have extended test-optional admissions for up to the three years in the future.
The most highly selective institutions going test-optional are:
BU has adopted a test-optional policy for all first-year applicants applying for admission in fall 2021 or spring 2022. They recommend that “students should consider the totality of their academic record, their contributions both in and out of the classroom and to their communities, and whether they feel confident that the sum of these experiences fully reflect their academic ability and potential.” The middle-50% SAT score for BU’s Class of 2024 admits was 1420-1540.
Case Western Reserve University
CWRU moved quickly to adopt a test-optional admissions policy on a trial basis for those applying next fall. One representative said that test scores “have always made up just a portion of our evaluation of prospective students, and we don’t want our future applicants to feel hamstrung by circumstances far outside their control.” The university will also begin examining whether they want to keep the newly-adopted policy in place beyond this year. Admitted students have, in the past, earned a middle-50% range of 1370-1490 on the SAT and 30-34 on the ACT.
To help alleviate some of the stress caused by COVID-19, Clarkson will allow anyone applying in fall 2020, spring 2021, or fall 2021 to have the option of not including SAT/ACT scores. In recent years, SAT scores of attending students have been in the 1140-1330 range.
In response to the crisis, this elite liberal arts school in North Carolina has decided to embark on a three-year test-optional pilot program. Since the virus has “brought unprecedented obstacles and disruptions for everyone, including young people pursuing their academic and life aspirations,” the college has decided to eliminate testing requirements in the interest of fairness. After three years, Davidson will reassess whether to once again make SAT/ACT score submission mandatory or make the policy change more permanent. Enrolled members of the Class of 2023 possessed mid-50% SAT scores of 1310-1470.
Scripps did not tie this policy change to any current events, but did elect to eliminate their standardized testing requirement this March. The policy will go into effect immediately. In previous years, this liberal arts school’s undergraduates have scored in the 1290-1460 range on the SAT.
While the pandemic may have led to the urgency behind Tufts’ switch to a three-year test-optional experiment, the school stated that they were likely headed in this direction regardless of national emergencies. Incoming 2019-20 freshman possessed a mean SAT score of 1477 and an average composite ACT score of 33.5.
Other schools include: Anderson University (Indiana), Chestnut Hill College, Concordia University (Texas), Drury University, Neumann University, Portland State University, Shenandoah University, University of the Cumberlands, University of Oregon, Western Michigan University, and William Woods University.
UPDATE 4/7/20: Additional notables that have announced going test-optional for the upcoming school year are: Williams College, Amherst College, Northeastern University, and Santa Clara University.
Additional notable schools announced the adoption of test-optional policies in the last few months, unrelated to Coronavirus include: Indiana University, Hamline University, Chapman University, the University of the Redlands, and St. Bonaventure University.
SAT Subject tests no longer required anywhere
In a move apparently unrelated to COVID-19, MIT also dropped their SAT Subject Test requirements. In fact, the famed institute of technology went a step further to say that, even if submitted, they will no longer consider them in the admissions process. Caltech and Harvey Mudd College jettisoned the requirement earlier in the year. There are now officially no schools in the United States that still require the submission of SAT Subject Tests, however, that is not to say that they do not still play an important admissions role at schools other than MIT. For more on that, check out our blog entitled: Do I Need to Take SAT Subject Tests?
What these changes mean for you
If you are a junior in high school who took the test prior to March and already achieved an excellent score that compares favorably to accepted students at your prospective colleges, then you likely won’t factor these policy changes into your application strategy. If this is not the case, scrapping test scores from your application may be a very serious consideration for you, particularly if the number of schools enacting temporary test-optional policies continues to increase. The College Transitions team expects many more prominent institutions to make similar announcements as the pandemic drags on. We will continue to bring our readers current information as any news breaks since we know that this may significantly impact your college search and admissions journey.
For additional information about test-optional admissions (in normal times), revisit our blog on the subject.
A licensed counselor and published researcher, Andrew’s experience in the field of college admissions and transition spans more than one decade. He has previously served as a high school counselor, consultant and author for Kaplan Test Prep, and advisor to U.S. Congress, reporting on issues related to college admissions and financial aid.