Do I Still Need the SAT or ACT?

April 23, 2020

The Coronavirus is hampering students’ ability to take the SAT and ACT.  If you’re one of them, what should you do?

  1. Keep your college search going despite being stuck at home
  2. Take advantage of your extra time by doing as well as possible in school
  3. Suspend the need to finalize your SAT/ACT plans

To explore this plan, let’s establish a framework for where we are right now.

You’re likely stuck at home a lot more and unable to visit most college campuses. Given that, here are several key steps you can take to keep your college search moving forward.  Your online research should involve independent research as well as connecting with specific admissions offices.  This connecting will help you learn more about which colleges suit you best and how the Coronavirus is changing each college’s application process.

Keep in mind that the changes in admissions processes are fluid right now.  This applies to the SAT and ACT.  Currently, many colleges allow students to apply without SAT or ACT scores.  These colleges are “test optional.”  Historically, most elite colleges required you to submit SAT or ACT scores.  But a few elite colleges, like Bates, blazed a trail by going test optional many decades ago.  In more recent years, other leading colleges such as Wake Forest and the University of Chicago became test optional.  Further, more public universities have gone test optional.

The glaring trend toward test-optional admissions cuts across all types of colleges.  And it is only gaining momentum due to the Coronavirus.  For instance, Middlebury, Tufts, Case Western and the entire University of California System have announced they will be test optional for the upcoming admissions cycle.

So, what does this mean for you?

Standardized testing timing and requirements will likely remain fluid for the foreseeable future.  For now, I doubt the SAT and ACT will end up getting waived for all colleges.  And if you’re still building your list of target colleges, you cannot know whether you’ll need test scores.  This means you’ll limit the number of colleges you can consider if you don’t maintain a plan to take the SAT or ACT.  On top of this, strong SAT and ACT scores help when you’re applying to a test-optional college.  Strong scores can increase your chances for admission and help qualify you for scholarships.

While I recommend you plan to take the test, you should – above all – prioritize doing as well as possible academically.  The grades you make will have a bigger impact on your applications’ strength than your SAT or ACT scores.

If the pandemic hampers your academics and leaves you with unexpected time, seek out supplemental online coursework – through Coursera or other virtual offerings – to deepen your education and better inform your college planning.

Looking beyond that academic preparation, 1- find out if you prefer the SAT or ACT and 2- start preparing for that test.  Studying for these tests is a well-proven strategy for maximizing your scores.

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