In the past year, COVID-19 has changed our lives. At all stores, schools, and government buildings, as well as on public transportation, people stay apart from each other. They are expressionless, with the bottom half of their face covered with a mask, and have their temperature checked every time they enter a building. The sounds of excitement and shout of joy often heard at amusement parks and sports stadiums have now vanished.
High school students in the United States face a wide variation in college admission methods, including test-optional policies and the abolition of SAT essays and subject tests. While the standard tests, such as the SAT and ACT, were considered to be one of the most important factors that affect college admission, the pandemic has changed that. Several colleges, including well-known universities such as Harvard, Colombia, and Brown, have decided to keep their test-optional admissions in place until 2022. While this doesn’t mean colleges will not accept any standardized test scores for the admissions process, applicants are no longer required to submit their test results as a part of the application.
In addition, the College Board, the non-profit organization that hosts the SAT, SAT subject tests, and Advanced Placement exams, announced that it is discontinuing the SAT subject tests as well as the essay portion of the SAT this January, meaning students no longer need to submit those scores to the colleges that they are applying to. The College Board reported that it is “no longer necessary for students to show what they know” through optional multiple-choice subject tests and that “there are other ways for students to demonstrate their mastery of essay writing” besides the optional essay portion of the SAT, meaning students should focus more on other factors rather than relying on standardized test scores.
However, these decisions have caused colleges to face difficulties in the admissions process. Since the standardized test had been an important factor for college admissions personnel to look at, its removal made it difficult for them to judge an individual’s academic achievement based only on extracurricular activities and GPA. On the other hand, several argue that the standardized tests are “biased tests” as some students get additional help from SAT preparation academies and study a lot for the test, while others cannot afford the tuition of such academies.
To clarify the potential advantages and disadvantages of the newly altered admission process, I interviewed Mr. Raymond Prado, the former admission direction of the California Institute of Technology, and asked several questions regarding standardized tests and college applications.
|[Interviewing Mr. Prado through Zoom. Photo Credit: Hyoung Seo Shin]|
Mr. Prado said, “In the next few years, many colleges are expecting to be test-optional until the end of the pandemic. Even after that, some, including all campuses of the University of California, have already decided to permanently exclude any standardized test scores for college admissions.” Since he used to be both a high school counselor and college admissions director, Mr. Prado is aware of what colleges look for in applicants and the reasons why they no longer require standardized tests. He continued, “Colleges started to not consider the SAT, including subject tests and optional essay, or the ACT as ways to determine an individual’s academic achievement since they are unfair and inaccurate methods of examining students’ reading and mathematical skills.”
However, he expressed concern that college admission had become more difficult with these decisions made. “Without standardized tests, students must focus on maintaining high GPA, taking advanced courses, and being involved in prominent activities inside or outside of school”. He even mentioned that the number of applicants has increased significantly for colleges that are test-optional, meaning that the colleges had become more selective in terms of acceptance.
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While it is not certain if colleges would continue the test-optional policy after the pandemics, COVID 19 has changed perceptions regarding standardized tests. Therefore, students should not only maintain high grade point average but give a strong impact to college admission directors through extracurricular activities related to their interests and major and take the most challenging courses, such as Advanced Placement or International Baccalaureate courses.
Hyoung Seo Shin
Fairmont Preparatory Academy
Hyoung Seo Shin firstname.lastname@example.org