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It Shouldn't Be This Hard to Take the SAT and ACT

I feel like we have entered the college admissions apocalypse.

The fact that some colleges remain test-optional while continuing to advantage students who report high test scores is downright misrepresentation. And, it was almost comical when several elite colleges reinstated standardized testing this spring claiming that it didn't disadvantage students coming from lower-resourced backgrounds.

Yet, not one college has publicly acknowledged how difficult it is for students in certain states to take the SAT and ACT. How can colleges value standardized testing when it's not easily accessible to all students?

If you live in parts of California, New York, Washington, Pennsylvania, Massachusetts, New Jersey, Illinois, Wisconsin, and other states, you might be experiencing the deep frustration of not being able to register for or take the SAT or ACT. The moment registration opens, certain testing sites fill up within minutes quickly leaving thousands of students without an option. And, if you are one of the lucky ones to get a spot at a testing site, don't be surprised to hear that the test is being cancelled, sometimes less than 24 hours before you are supposed to take it. 
 
Some families are taking matters into their own hands. They are securing a spot at a testing site hundreds of miles away, often in different states. This requires the family to spend money on airfare, hotel rooms, and rental cars just to be able to allow the student to take a test for the college admissions process. While these students might be viewed as fortunate to be able to spend hundreds and sometimes thousands of dollars to take the test, it is not ideal by any means. Taking a test that carries so much weight in the college admissions process in an unfamiliar environment can add an extra layer of pressure and stress. 
But what about all the students who can't afford to travel across state lines? I call that the sobering reality of college admissions. It also reflects the complete lack of empathy colleges have when they make institutional policy. There is a distance college administrators create between themselves and the students. There is also an unwillingness to step into the shoes of the students going through this process. It's like the deans of admissions don't remember what it's like to be a teenager when they institute policy or they simply had every opportunity given to them when they were younger so they have no clue how the rest of the world grows up. 
 
It's clear test scores matter to colleges more than ever before. If colleges are going to require or simply value standardized testing, something has to change. The College Board and the ACT need to be held accountable for the dearth of testing sites, lack of training among their testing proctors, and high rate of unacceptable testing conditions. Colleges can no longer say that standardized testing is an equalizer in college admissions. 


READ MORE: 10 Important Standardized Testing Terms You Need to Know



In the meantime, I would encourage families to demand that their high schools offer a school day test date in the fall.
Keep in mind, though, that if you are a rising senior, school day test dates can only be done in the month of October. That can be too late for some colleges with early deadlines. But it's better than nothing. 

Having financial resources has always given a student an edge in the college admissions process, and especially in doing well on standardized tests. Now, it helps even more to be able to afford to go anywhere to take the test. That's not just apocalyptic; it's completely unacceptable.