Many colleges become test-optional due to COVID-19 impact

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The logo of College Board, the organization that holds the SAT and ACT.

Misbah Rajan, Reporter

In mid-March, as schools across the country began to shut, aspiring college students got big news: Spring ACT and SATs were being called off amid concerns about the spreading coronavirus. Now, a growing list of schools have announced they are becoming test-optional for the category of 2021, meaning the SAT or ACT will not be required for admission. Those schools join a pool of about 1,000 US colleges that have already dropped the standardized tests from admissions requirements, consistent with the National Center for Fair and Open Testing, an advocacy group that has long been critical of standardized testing.

Case Western Reserve University in Cleveland, Ohio was one among the earliest schools to use the coronavirus as a catalyst for change. Rick Bischoff, who oversees enrollment there, told NPR last week that the varsity had been discussing going test-optional, partly due to how it has been shown to enhance equity. Bischoff said Case Western Reserve was getting to make a final judgment during a year approximately, but the disruptions from the coronavirus outbreak moved that call up.

“Understanding what proportion turmoil this is often injecting into the method, it’s with great care clearly, in our view, the proper thing to try to,” Bischoff said.

More than a dozen colleges have dropped testing requirements due to the pandemic, consistent with reporting from Inside Higher Ed. On March 25, the University of California temporarily suspended testing requirements. Other schools, like Tufts University outside Boston and Davidson College, a little school in North Carolina, try out a test-optional policy for the subsequent three years.

“The COVID-19 pandemic has brought unprecedented obstacles and disruptions for everybody, including children pursuing their academic and life aspirations,” Chris Gruber, who oversees admission and aid at Davidson, wrote during a statement.

Colleges are dropping the SAT or ACT for admissions, they are waiving fees and are extending deadlines. These are a number of the ways admissions officials are responding to the coronavirus — and that they are just getting started in what is likely to be an unprecedented and potentially difficult spring. At least 17 colleges have dropped the SAT or ACT in recent weeks for one or two admissions cycles, specifically citing the impact of COVID-19.

Boston University announced that they will go test-optional for those applying within the fall of 2021 or the spring of 2022, but only those two semesters. BU cited the problem students have in taking the SAT or ACT.

“This may be a one-year adoption of the policy. But we’ll review it next spring. We are responding to the shifting landscape, with juniors in high school unable to access testing, and that we wanted to be flexible,” Kelly Walter, associate vice chairman for enrollment and dean of admissions, said.

Tufts University announced a three-year experiment with going test-optional. JT Duck, dean of admissions at Tufts, wrote a blog post about the change during which he said submitting test scores would be completely optional and would not have the impact of helping or hurting a student. It is unclear if these new admissions practices will stick, but some schools — including the University of Oregon and Oregon State University — have already committed to creating their new test-optional policies permanent.

In Oregon, the University of Oregon and Oregon State University announced that they might not require the SAT or the ACT, permanently. With their actions, every public University in Oregon is now testing optional. David Rion, director of school guidance at the Loomis Chaffee School, in Connecticut, is circulating a letter urging colleges to follow the lead of these going test-optional. Student Voice is additionally urging colleges to drop the tests, with a campaign using the hashtag #TestOptionalNOW.

However, the school board will likely add a further test date to form up for any SAT administrations that were canceled thanks to the coronavirus. Even though significant action has been taken by major universities, the future is still unclear and it is likely there will be more changes in the future.