A new era of college admissions is upon us. COVID-19 caused schools to shut down; tons of high school juniors did not sit for the SAT/ACT or attempt to retake the exam. Students' anxiety is at an all-time high because they don't have test scores. Parents worry about their child's college acceptance and merit scholarship awards. Test centers have closed or become limited all over the country. Social distancing isn't possible at max capacity for test centers. Fellow college counselors share stories of students who were reassigned to testing centers hundreds of miles away from their home with no guarantee of being open. Testing during this pandemic puts students and their families at high risk, as evidenced by students who sat for the ACT in Oklahoma tested positive for the virus. Students need to put their health first by choosing not to sit for these exams.
Colleges understand students' testing struggles. They closed down to protect their communities. While adapting to a new normal on their campus, many colleges are also adhering to the needs of applicants this year by giving students the option not to submit test scores. This policy is called "test-optional." More than 60% of colleges and universities recognized by the U.S. Department of Education have chosen to institute this policy, according to FairTest. Test optional admissions have been around since 1969 starting with Bowdoin College, but the sigma of testing as a measurement of a student's potential and success in college still promotes falsehood decades later. The National Association for College Admissions Counseling requested colleges to sign a statement saying that test-optional means not submitting test scores does not affect consideration for admission. This statement provides relief for families and students who are influenced by College Board and ACT propaganda.
Test-optional isn't a trick. Test-optional does not mean "less than." Before the virus outbreak, many excellent schools were test-optional like Trinity College. I was happy when my alma mater, Skidmore College, went test-optional in 2016. Now, more students like me had a better shot of having a life-changing education.
Students need to understand that a test score on a single day doesn't define their ability and potential. I scored around 900 on the SAT. It was the Higher Education Opportunity Program (HEOP) that gave me a chance to attend Skidmore. I was third in my high school class and took half of the APs at my under-resourced high school in Downtown Brooklyn. My SAT score didn't speak to my love of education. From the perspective of testing propaganda, I wouldn't have graduated from college on time because of my score, where I went to school, my neighborhood, and because I am first-generation.
In 2014, an extensive study on students at test-optional colleges comparing those who did and did not submit SAT or ACT scores found there was "virtually no difference in academic performance" between them.
Considering the SAT's white supremacist history, which was initially anti-semitic, I'm 100% for colleges going test-optional, especially since a 2018 study showed that test-optional policies increase diversity on college campuses. As a college counselor who worked in under-resourced schools, it always hurts to witness a bright student not given a chance to go away to college because of their test score. Testing robs these students of the opportunity to focus on school to become the best versions of themselves. It's time for this cycle to come to an end. I'm hopeful that colleges that have gone test-optional for the year will realize test scores prevented them from attaining a campus that genuinely reflects our world.
To the students worried about colleges that still require test scores for admissions and scholarships, you have to question if they value you, your health, and your family's life. Testing is not worth your life and the lives of those around you. If you're concerned about funding, there are affordable colleges where you don't have to put your health on the line to test. Also, there are tons of outside scholarships looking for applicants.
Focus on researching colleges, writing your college essays, outside scholarships, and finishing your senior year strong. Destiny will also determine where you will be. Any college would be blessed to have you. Do you know, after many years of naysaying, even College Board favors colleges considering students like you without a test score? As a student, put your health first. You are more significant than your test scores.