In 2020 and 2021, the coronavirus pandemic has negatively impacted the new college students, with some possible relief in 2022. The cancellation of several SAT/ACT dates in 2020 prevented students from appearing for the exams as juniors or seniors. As a result, several universities have scrapped the SAT/ACT criteria for 2020 and 2021, significantly altering the admissions process. As they deal with this challenging and unsettling circumstance, students and universities must make difficult decisions, albeit quick ones.
The SAT examinations were not offered to students in the spring, summer, and autumn of 2020, since this would have a substantial influence on the seniors and juniors who would be arriving as newcomers in the summer and fall of 2021. In late 2020, more locations were closed or exam schedules were canceled in cities such as San Francisco, Chicago, New York, Philadelphia, New Jersey, Virginia, and others. According to the College Board, 96,000 of the 312,000 candidates who registered for the Nov. 7 SAT Test were unable to take the exam. On September 26, 183,000 of the 334,000 student participants weren’t able to take the exam and on October 3, 154,000 of the 363,000 were unable to take the tests.
Beyond this, schools have been disrupted by full school closures or transitions to distance learning, where many school grades were also bypassed.
Many universities, particularly the University of California system, responded by eliminating the SAT/ACT from their admissions criteria. Over 1675 colleges and universities now have SAT/ACT optional application systems in place. There are several alternatives to this, including making the test option, in which students may submit their results if they were able to take the exam, and SAT/ACT blind, in which the institution indicates that the test scores will not be assessed in their hiring process at all. Students who registered this year were unsure if their applications would be reviewed fairly by other applicants who took the test, but many took it nonetheless.
Other universities, notably the University of Florida system, have not updated their requirements, which has caused problems for students who haven’t been able to take the examinations. At a Board of Governors meeting, it was stated that the state’s university system had 50% fewer applications than the previous year. Nevertheless, there is also apprehension about enrolling in college for other considerations. Students may be hesitant to start college remotely owing to a terrible learning environment and would rather wait a year. According to a LaneTerralever poll, 43 percent of students were contemplating delaying the commencement of a new higher education program.
Some groups involved in education have pushed for the removal of the tests from consideration even before the pandemic, arguing that the ACT and SAT don’t fairly measure aptitude, can be swayed heavily by paid test preparation courses, and are poor predictors of college success. As a greater number of colleges try SAT/ACT optional admissions, they will learn whether the admission process can accept a college-ready class without relying on the tests.
Without standardized tests, high school GPA would be more emphasized in admissions, as would essays and extracurriculars. GPA gives a better idea of the student’s performance in college and extracurricular activities, showing the student’s personality and fit for a college atmosphere. Admissions essays show students’ unique qualities.
However, in the coming years, many colleges are calling for coronavirus-related subjects in essays and other writing submissions. In light of missed opportunities leading to poor academic performance, these submissions give students the ability to explain their unique circumstances caused by the pandemic or their economic conditions. Colleges can use this information and the quality of the writing to determine whether students deserve another chance. This approach is important for supporting students who have suffered due to hard times.
As 2023 approaches, we will see what long-term effect the pandemic will have on college admissions. Colleges may decide to deemphasize or remove standardized testing from their admissions process, but students will continue taking them as long as they improve their chances of getting into more selective colleges.