The pandemic transformed the college admissions process this year, as universities swapped out their long-standing standardized testing requirements for a temporary test optional format. As the effects of COVID-19 have continued into 2021, however, taking either the SAT or the ACT continues to be a challenge for many students. This raises the question of whether the test optional format should continue another year, allowing current juniors to have the option to opt out of sending test scores in their college applications next year as seniors.
Some juniors hope to see colleges extend the test optional policy into next year, as the pandemic has made getting a spot to sit tests difficult. Restrictions on the number of students allowed in one testing room, for example, significantly limits the number of spots available to take a standardized test. “With the necessary safety restrictions and the uncertainty of the pandemic in general, it can be difficult to even be able to take either the SAT or ACT. Universities should stay test optional next year because tests are constantly being cancelled,” Thomas S. Wootton junior Eknoor Kaur said.
Additionally, according to current juniors, the pandemic has made it difficult to prepare for standardized tests. In normal circumstances, various forms of test prep are available, ranging from in-person tutoring to PSATs proctored by high schools. Students believe the lack of these options can put juniors at a disadvantage, therefore suggesting the necessity of a continuation in the test optional policy. “They [colleges] definitely should [stay test optional] because preparing is harder this year. We don’t have the same in-person resources as previous years. Also, the pandemic itself is super overwhelming and frankly unmotivating, especially when it comes to standardized testing,” Thomas S. Wootton junior Elizabeth Ipe said.
Other students are opposed to universities’ mandatory standardized test policy altogether, pandemic or not. While most schools tend to have a holistic application review process, some students don’t believe standardized test scores should be relevant at all and hope to see the test optional policy continue indefinitely. “I don’t think that one’s ability to take a standardized test should determine their future. How well you do on a single test one day shouldn’t bear so much weight,” Kaur said.
There are some juniors who wouldn’t mind seeing the test optional policy come to a close after this admissions cycle. An SAT or ACT score can be a reflection of the type of student a person is, and given that health restrictions and adjustments have been made to the test-taking process, some believe testing should return to being a mandatory part of the college application. “The pandemic has made it difficult to engage in extracurricular activities and has seriously limited students’ options to improve their college applications. A test score might help make up for that in the admissions process,” Thomas S. Wootton junior Abigail Turner said.
Overall, COVID-19 has created uncertainty in the college admissions process and new changes like the test optional policy have had to be made during these unusual times. Some students believe ending the policy this year puts current juniors at a disadvantage due to the pandemic, while others support the continuation of mandatory standardized testing because of its academic significance.