COVID-19 has disrupted many college admissions processes, including SAT and ACT testing, for students who will be seeking admission in 2021 — high school juniors. Almost all colleges are now closed and the ad hoc methods adopted to provide admissions-related services are still focused on the needs of current seniors who were admitted this year, but they’ll soon be able to devote more attention to your needs. Events are unfolding at a rapid pace and you need to stay current on changes that affect you. Please follow my Twitter feed (@charlotteklaar) for up-to-the -minute information.
The SAT and ACT Exams
Perhaps the most annoying issue facing juniors is standardized tests. Scores from the SAT or ACT exams remain a requirement for admission at the majority of colleges.
On April 16, the College Board announced that it had canceled the June 6th testing date for the SAT. The Board also announced that there will be a test in August and an additional test in September, pandemic or no pandemic.
Since all of the spring SAT dates have been cancelled, one additional test in September won’t satisfy demand. If you want a test seat, try to register early. Seats are assigned on a first-come, first-served basis. The SAT test schedule for the fall won’t be released until May, but it’s safe to assume that there will be a test offered every month after July for the rest of 2020.
The same holds true for the ACT; when new seats open up in August or in the fall, you should promptly book a seat for any date that you can get.
Due to the spring cancellations of the SAT and ACT, and even with an added test, it’s expected that the shortage of test seats will be in the hundreds of thousands. Even if you prefer the SAT to the ACT or vice versa, take any test for which you’re able to register. Studying for one is almost the same as studying for the other. Just make sure you familiarize yourself with the different formats, timeframes, and essay requirements.
It has been announced by both the SAT and ACT organizations that, if closures prevent the resumption of tests at central locations, it’s highly likely that there will not be enough seats for all of the students seeking one. As a result, they’re developing digital versions of the tests for students to take at home if needed. Since the College Board will be offering AP exams online, it’s already building an online testing capability that could also be used for the SAT, although the SAT will be harder to reproduce online due to its length, complexity, security requirements, and volume.
Test Optional Policies
Juniors are forced into a corner due to the spring test cancellations. In normal times, it’s recommended that you take the SAT or ACT at least twice and, in some cases, three times in order to obtain your best possible scores before applying to colleges. Under current conditions, you should assume that you’ll only be able to take the test once. This means that, if you’re only going to get one shot, you’d better prepare diligently for it.
Many colleges were test-optional before the pandemic. For those that were not, the Coronavirus has encouraged many more to adopt test optional policies. But this doesn’t really present an opportunity for you to avoid the tests. The SAT and ACT are tools that applicants use to differentiate themselves from their peers in order to be accepted by competitive colleges. The tests will continue to be essential for that purpose even if the colleges that you apply to have test optional policies.
Ways for Juniors to Remain Engaged in the Admissions Process
It would be a mistake to NOT pursue admissions-related activities during the coming weeks. Here are some ways that you can stay on track to meet your educational goals:
Virtual Classes – If your high school is teaching courses online, give the classes and homework
your full attention. Schools were compelled to throw together modified lesson plans and use unsuitable online tools. There are excellent online classroom systems on the market, and, given time, high schools will upgrade. Meanwhile, put in the work.
College List – Here’s how it usually goes. Your College List consists of the approximately nine schools to which you’ll apply in senior year because they fit your selection criteria best. They’re divided into three tiers; the colleges you’re almost certain to be admitted to, the colleges you’ll probably be admitted to, and the colleges you aspire to attend but which are less likely to admit you. The characteristic that all colleges on the list have in common is that you’d be happy to attend any of them. It’s best to have this list finalized early in senior year, so by now you should have a handle on it.
That’s how it works in a normal year. The pandemic has changed things. There are now a number of reasons to re-examine your College List because your selection criteria may have changed. Here are a few things to consider:
- Can I still afford these colleges?
- Do I want to borrow extensively to attend this college, considering possible changes in future employment opportunities?
- Is this college experiencing such a reduction in revenue that they’ll need to cut faculty, majors, programs, student activities, or campus amenities next year?
- Should I stay closer to home due to family responsibilities?
- Would I be better off attending community college for the first two years?
- Should I postpone college for a year?
College Visits – Actual visits are the best way to learn about what you like and dislike about a college on your preliminary College List. But college visits have been cancelled. When they’ll resume is unknown. Many colleges are now offering virtual information sessions and directing students to virtual tours of the campus. While a virtual tour isn’t as good as the real thing, it can be beneficial. You can also learn much about a college from a one-on-one conversation with an admissions officer.
Extracurricular Activities – The activities that you were planning to use to enhance your case for admission may have been cancelled. Admissions officers will take this into consideration because this has happened to all applicants. However, you may wish to show your creativity by figuring out how to pursue your interests and passions virtually or by finding a way to help your community during quarantine.
Preparing for Applications – Normally, initial preparations for your applications begin in the summer before senior year. But, since you may have time on your hands, feel free to get a head start. Open a Common App account and become familiar with the platform. Brainstorm essay topics and develop an outline of your personal statement. Take a look at the activity section, which may be expanded by the Common App, and consider how to present your extracurricular activities.
There are ways for students and families to cope with the rapid flow of admissions-related changes during the pandemic. Relying on an Independent Educational Consultant (IEC) such as Klaar College Consulting is foremost among them. We’re professionals who track changes in the admissions field on an ongoing basis, and never more diligently than under current unprecedented conditions.