What to Do if Covid19 Has DeRailed Your Teen’s SAT Testing
Juniors and Seniors who were about to get all of their college materials together, including testing scores, have suddenly found themselves facing cancelled SATs and ACTs. But there is a lot of good news about what the SAT's REALLY mean for your teen's future.
As it stands now, the admission testing required by over 85% of American colleges and universities has been made unavailable to students. The SAT was canceled last month for many New Jersey students whose high school testing locations were closed due to early cases of coronavirus.
Two weeks later, once all U.S. schools had closed, the College Board, the private company responsible for the SAT, and ACT, both suspended their next rounds of testing -- the May SAT and the April ACT. This has left hundreds of thousands of 11th graders across the country prepped for the spring testing, but with no tests to take. According to CDC recommendations and with our state still weeks away from the peak of the pandemic, it is a very real possibility that the June SAT and ACT could be canceled as well.
WHAT CAN PARENTS AND STUDENTS DO TO CONTINUE STUDYING FOR THE SATs AND/OR ACTs, ESPECIALLY IF THEY HAD ALREADY COMPLETED A STUDY PROGRAM PREPARING FOR THE MARCH OR MAY SATs?
-- If you have recently completed a test prep course for testing in March or May, the good news is that the techniques learned there should be conditioned skills that won’t be lost in the short term. To keep yourself fresh they recommend one full-length practice SAT or ACT per month and maintain the golden rule of one full-length practice test the weekend prior to any real test. Practice tests can be found in the official study guides for the SAT or ACT which you should already have from your prep course, as well as online. Remember, not all practice tests are created equal: always use practice tests issued by the test makers themselves for reliable results.
-- Keep in mind that many high schools in NJ may still be able to open as testing centers in August for the national administering of the SAT. That test date is always the third weekend of the month and might be far enough from now to run without cancellation.
COULD DEADLINES FOR EARLY ADMISSION BE EXTENDED?
-- Colleges have historically extended early admission deadlines in several ways. In the most common, schools may simply push the date back several weeks to a month, moving the date from the typical November 1 to early December. This would also possibly push regular admission dates back as well, since although the regular deadlines are not traditionally until January 1 or 15, admissions would be feeling the crunch to process all the early applications and notify before the regular deadlines pass, unless the offices commit to still getting decisions made before Christmas.
MIGHT MORE COLLEGES START TO ANNOUNCE THAT THEY ARE GOING TEST-OPTIONAL FOR THE ADMISSION PROCESS FOR STUDENTS APPLYING FOR FALL 2021 AND SPRING 2022?
-- So much uncertainty surrounds the timetable of standardized testing due to the coronavirus that some colleges are looking to unhitch themselves from the SAT and ACT altogether for at least this admission cycle. Going test-optional means that the admission cycle is no longer contingent upon the availability of the SAT and ACT to students in an even and timely manner.
-- What most people don’t understand is how small a role the SAT and ACT already play in the admission process for mid-sized and small colleges (all the Ivies, Catholic colleges, and other private colleges in the US). The SAT and ACT are used more as an initial cut line than actual criteria during the consideration process. The holistic approach employed by essentially all colleges that are approximately 5000 undergraduate students and under does not return to the SAT or ACT after the applicant has cleared that first cut. Although the high school GPA is the most important number in the application, admissions for the private colleges in America is not a numbers game. It is a balanced consideration of the identity and mental workings of applicants and the breadth of the ripples they have made and will continue to make in the communities they belong to. It is for this reason that 15% of American colleges had gone Test Optional before the coronavirus. If colleges are small enough to have the manpower in admissions to evaluate applicants in a holistic vs algorithmic way, they will be the most likely to take the step to leave ACT and SAT numbers out for this admission cycle, as Boston University has recently decided to do, or for a multiple year trial, as Tufts recently announced.
SHOULD HIGH SCHOOL JUNIORS STILL PLAN TO TAKE THE TEST?
-- In college consulting speak, “Optional” means “Your competition did it.” For this reason, we are advising our students to prep and achieve their career highs on SAT and ACT regardless of colleges going test-optional so that they have yet another way to demonstrate their prowess outside the bounds of their high schools, in the national arena. Advice on this will change in future years if most colleges shift to and stick with Test Optional. If Test Optional becomes the Status Quo then it will follow that the SAT will be taken by a much smaller, more competitive sampling of students which will skew the percentages and curves on the test, and so experts may advise an ever-shrinking profile of students to take the SAT, similar to what they do with the Math Level 2 SAT Subject Test on which an 800 out of 800 is only the 78th percentile (22% of test takers tie with perfect scores.)
WHAT IS THE BEST WAY TO NAVIGATE VIRTUAL LEARNING?
-- Possible elimination of the SAT and ACT from the admission process will increase the emphasis on the already important GPA. The College Board has already released word that AP testing will proceed this spring with testing administered to students at home. This means that although the schools are rightly pushing the happy, positive message that we are taking it one day at a time and just do your best with remote learning, juniors are going to have to get out the hustle, and rise to the challenge of maintaining a high-level of learning from home with little support. The experts' advice: Don’t slack; you still need your AP exams to be great; and your GPA is more important than ever.
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