More Colleges Go Test-Optional During Pandemic

By Ashlye Arrue ’21 and Mari Vitangcol ’21

The Los Angeles County Department of Public Health recently announced it would allow Immaculate Heart High School to administer the SAT on campus on Tuesday, October 27. “Everything is subject to how the county is doing with the virus,” IHHS Assistant Principal Angela Glynn said of the scheduled test date. “We were given the go-ahead by the county, but things are always changing.”

In light of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, many schools, including Immaculate Heart, have been forced to cancel standardized tests like the SAT. In turn, many colleges and universities have resorted to test-optional policies to accommodate those students unable to submit their test scores.

According to the National Association of College Admission Counseling, institutions that have gone test-optional “are making a definitive statement that they will not need test scores to make admission decisions this year.”

Immaculate Heart College Counselor Kristy Suzuki sought to further assure IH students by saying, “If students aren’t able to take the SATs, they are not alone and it’s OK.”

Suzuki said nearly 1,600 colleges and universities have waived the standardized testing requirements for 2020-21. Additionally, those colleges with test-optional policies in place have affirmed they will not penalize students for the absence of a standardized test score, she said.

“Rather than focus on preparing for a standardized test that may or may not be able to be administered safely here in Los Angeles (which is something out of our control), we would encourage our students to do what is in their control,” Suzuki said. The counselor suggested students take care of their well-being and that of their loved ones during this pandemic, do their best in their classes this year, and continue to pursue their interests, such as through clubs and virtual learning opportunities.

“We know that the ACT or the SAT is just one factor that college admissions offices would use in their admission process, but we also know that one of these tests isn’t the best predictor of a student’s success in college,” Suzuki continued. “How students have done in their classes here at Immaculate Heart, and how they have contributed to their families, our school and greater communities – those are so much more impactful for how successful a student will be in college and beyond.”

Asking IH students to comment about the recent test cancelations draws differing viewpoints. Senior Lily Factora took her first SAT without studying just to gain a better understanding of the experience. She now hopes to take the test again, only this time with better preparation, but she has not been able to do so.

“I am really worried that since I won’t be submitting an SAT score, I will be considered significantly less when there’s another student with an SAT score that reflects their abilities,” Factora said.

“I am both frustrated and relieved that the SATs are being canceled,” she added. “It’s frustrating because the SAT could potentially boost my resume, but it’s relieving to have one less thing to worry about completing.”

Senior Renata Spinelli said she thinks the test cancellations have given colleges “a great opportunity to realize that they don’t need these standardized tests to admit kids into their schools.”

“To me, tests like the SAT and the ACT seem to be more about making money for testing companies rather than accurately showing the academic abilities of students,” Spinelli said. “It comes down to who is better at taking a test, and I think that this puts an unfair amount of stress on students on top of their application process and normal schoolwork.”

The University of California Board of Regents met earlier this year and unanimously voted to phase out standardized test scores in admissions decisions. The Board concluded that the tests were unacceptably biased based on race, income and parent education level and did not provide useful information about how students would fare in college. Regents voted to make the tests optional for two years, then phase them out, but still allowed them to be used for scholarship decisions. 

Several UC campuses, including UC Berkeley, UC Irvine and UC Santa Cruz, have since decided to drop the SAT and ACT testing requirements altogether. But a recent court ruling said all UC campuses must immediately drop use of the tests for admissions and scholarships because applicants with disabilities had virtually no access to test-taking sites or legally required accommodations during the Covid-19 pandemic. 

Graphic Credit: National Association for College Admission Counseling

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