Just last week, the College Board asked universities and colleges to "show flexibility" with the millions of students who have not been able to take the SAT due to cancelled test dates amidst the backdrop of COVID-19.
The nonprofit organization also admitted that it is dropping plans to unveil an online SAT in time for students to take the test at-home for the foreseeable future. While this makes sense given the disastrous online AP exams the College Board administered last month, this means it will be even harder for the Class of 2021 to take the SAT.
Dozens of colleges have already announced test optional policies for the coming year, including two additional Ivy League universities, Dartmouth College and the University of Pennsylvania, in the last few days. But what about the thousands of other colleges who remain silent? How long should we wait for their answers before we need to take action?
Let's take the fact that a large percentage of high school juniors have not taken the SAT or ACT yet. In fact, the earliest some of them will be able to take a test is the fall of this year. The COVID-19 pandemic cancelled many of the March SAT tests, the April ACT, and the May and June SAT as well. While most Americans see their local high school as being in lockdown and unopened, the ACT indicated last week that some June ACT testing sites would be open for the upcoming test. I can only imagine how stressful registration will be on that day and what it's like to take a four hour exam with or without air conditioning with a face mask on.
The College Board and ACT have both announced that they will be offering monthly tests starting this fall to allow the Class of 2021 to squeeze in at least one test before their applications are due. But the College Board made this nearly impossible for many students as testing sites filled up quickly for the fall, its website couldn't handle the volume of students trying to register, and its customer service department was clearly not prepared as families were on-hold for up to four hours at a time. Families are still waiting for any opportunity, good or bad, to register for the fall ACT.
If a student was "fortunate" enough to register for an August, September, or October SAT, that means they will need to spend their summer and the beginning of their senior year preparing for this test. In a normal admissions cycle, there are plenty of high school seniors taking the SAT, ACT, or Subject Tests in the fall. It's stressful, but they do it to try to increase their scores, not take these tests for the first time.
But just imagine this fall. Most rising seniors have zero college visits under their belt as campuses closed on the precipice of the busiest time for college visits this spring. Students will need to try to visit colleges this fall in order to decide their Early Decision and Early Action choices and finalize their college lists. And students' grades for senior year will matter even more if virtual learning was not ideal, or like many high schools, grades were not even given this spring. So students will need to take these tests under enormous pressure while visiting all of their colleges, crushing it with their grades, preparing applications, writing essays, and fulfilling other school and family responsibilities. It is simply too much to expect from teenagers.
The longer colleges wait to drop the SAT and ACT from the testing requirements this year, the more harm they will cause. Our youth needs to know the plan and feel supported now more than ever before.