In mid-March, schools across the country began to close due to the spread of COVID-19, which led to students continuing their classes at home. This has impacted students all over the world, especially the upcoming senior class of 2021, which will begin the college application process this coming fall. Due to the current pandemic, the SAT and ACT testing dates scheduled for the spring and early summer have been canceled. As a result, more than 60 colleges in the country have suspended the standardized testing requirement for admissions, including but not limited to Tufts University, Chapman University, and all nine UC campuses.
Like many students, Redwood junior Delany Allen had her ACT test canceled only a few weeks before she was supposed to take it.
“My ACT test got canceled and pushed back to June, it might be longer if we are still in quarantine,” Allen said.
This is tough for many students who are relying on their test scores to provide them with scholarships and financial aid.
According to Becky Bjursten, Redwood’s College and Career Center specialist, schools that normally have SAT and ACT requirements will begin to weigh other parts of students’ applications at a higher level. This will include a larger emphasis on extracurricular activities and programs like community service and internships.
“[Colleges] will look at your grades, but probably not this semester where routinely it is a really important semester. Now it’s not going to be that important. So maybe they would look at your senior first semester or maybe look heavier at your freshman, sophomore and junior first semester as well as looking deeper at your essay,” Bjursten said.
According to Bjursten, colleges will be invested in what students did with their time at home, whether it is helping out their families or communities in some way or taking online classes outside of school in their spare time.
However, many people, including data specialist and former College and Career specialist Meg Heimbrodt, thinks this experience could create new ways of looking at the college admissions system.
“I feel like this will force colleges to evaluate students in different ways. This will be based on different factors including socioeconomic standpoint and what they have been doing during the quarantine,” Heimbrodt said.
She regularly works with juniors and advises that students should spend their time with their families and keeping up with their school work.
According to the Washington Post, over one million high school juniors are missing their chance to take their first SAT this spring. In addition, student-run groups like Student Voice are pushing for schools to become test-optional further than just fall of 2020 by creating petitions and campaigning all across the nation.
It is uncertain if these test-optional practices will become part of college admissions permanently. After all, some schools, including New York University and the University of Oregon, did not require test scores even before the COVID-19 pandemic. However, no matter what happens, in this time of uncertainty, college experts such as Bjursten and Heimbrodt encourage the class of 2021 to be productive and take advantage of this time.
“This is a time when we’re home. Students should continue to enrich their learning experience not only so that they have something to write about for college, but [so they have] something that will enrich their lives,” Heimbrodt said.