The high-school-to-college transition generally elicits questions and scenarios to boggle your mind. In these uncertain times with new information cropping up and changing frequently, it’s even more of a challenge to keep apace.
In light of COVID-19’s impact on recent testing, the University of California (UC), after much deliberation, announced that its campuses are going ACT/SAT test optional, which means tests are accepted but not required, through 2022. Eventually, UC will go test blind, meaning it will exclude testing in its admissions process, through 2024. Ultimately, UC will develop its own admissions test, specifics still unknown, by 2025. Other universities have decided to temporarily go test optional, including Boston University for the 2021-2022 year and Tufts University for the next three academic years.
So, what does this decision to lessen the priority of standardized testing mean in the grand scheme of college admissions?
- If admissions standards are reduced, then an increased number of students is likely to apply to these universities, making the college selection process even more competitive.
- Without tests, academic performance will become an even higher priority in the admissions decision.
- Not all universities are going test optional, so the SAT and ACT aren’t going away any time soon.
- Standardized tests are helpful in determining more than just admissions decisions, including academic scholarships, National Collegiate Athletic Association eligibility requirements, and proper college course placement.
Given this “new normal” established by UC and other universities going test optional, you may wonder what course of action your high schooler should take now in preparation for college. Here are some action steps for current high school students:
- According to CNBC, “30% of literacy and 50% of math gains could be lost” due to the transition to online learning this spring. As a result, increasing academic skills in the core areas of math, science, and English over the summer is imperative to successfully moving on to the next level of classes in the fall. Because of the importance of the transcript in the admission process with test-optional universities, taking and excelling in Advanced Placement, honors, IB, and other academically-challenging classes will make a student stand out amidst the crowd of applicants. Starting early with academic successes can establish a strong foundation, so rising freshmen should take note!
- Fostering relationships at the start of high school with guidance counselors and teachers can help yield strong letters of recommendation. Again, if tests are not a priority in the admissions decision, then the other areas of a student’s application take the spotlight.
- It’s important for students to continue to prepare for the ACT and SAT, which includes suring-up their writing, reading comprehension, and math skills. For rising juniors and seniors, UC will be test optional, but taking the test will still show the admissions committee a certain degree of effort and commitment to education. For rising freshmen and sophomores, UC will no longer factor tests in admissions, but the test is still useful in determining other important, non-admissions factors, such as scholarships, which benefit those in need of financial aid. Regardless of UC’s test status, taking the SAT/ACT has advantages. Additionally, because students typically apply to a plethora of schools to increase their chances of acceptance, it is extremely likely that several or more schools on their list will still require the SAT/ACT.
- Rising seniors, in particular, are encouraged to register as soon as possible for test slots this summer and fall if they need to take or retake exams because spots are limited and filling up quickly. The ACT and SAT websites are the most reliable sources for up-to-date information.
- It’s a must for students, especially rising juniors and seniors right now, to check out specific university requirements before completing the application process. Requirements are subject to change, especially in this post-COVID-19 world, so regularly visiting a university’s website will provide the clearest details.
Remember that you and your child are not alone in this process. Millions of college hopefuls are in the same boat. It’s crucial to reach out and ask questions when you’re uncertain of the changes. The constant in all of this is that your child’s willingness to learn, work, and do their best reigns supreme!