The Application Complication: What’s Happening with the SAT

In a year like no other, high school seniors face even more uncertainty regarding their future. Standardized tests may now be a thing of the past, but the anxiety and preparation surrounding college applications is as present as ever.

Will Hite, Reporter

Even as life slows down during the pandemic, college application deadlines draw nearer towards the Class of 2021. This year, however, one key part of the admissions process is missing: the SAT/ACT testing requirement has been suspended for incoming applicants by nearly every college in the nation. Unlike in previous years where standardized tests played a large and often frustrating role for many seniors, students will be forced to consider alternatives in their efforts to stand out.

Unfortunately, the confusion does not end there. Standardized testing suspensions will add yet another degree of variance for already jumbled application systems. The University of California system, which has moved to make test score reporting optional, still plans to include many of the same elements of their application process as it has in years past. However, the California State University system has completely suspended SAT / ACT reporting for the fall 2021 period, among other requirements.

This leaves graduating seniors with a tough decision: they can press their luck by signing up for one of the dwindling seats in a late-year test administration period, or they can simply step away from the testing scene altogether. As it stands, much of the decision making may boil down to the work that many students have already put in. Senior Jake Genelly discusses his views on the right plan of attack.

“I took it the first time and I got a good score, but I just felt like I could have done more. So took it in July, and it got cancelled. Then I tried August, and it got cancelled because the SRJC just isn’t doing it anymore, they aren’t doing SATs. So then I tried September, and it got so full that the only way I could have gotten into one was to drive an hour out and an hour back, and I didn’t want to drive two hours for a five hour test―that just seemed like a terrible day. So instead I went all the way to November and didn’t even look at October,” Genelly said.

Genelly explains his reasons behind his approach to the rapidly changing system.

“It helps you to have a score, but it doesn’t hurt you to not have a score is how they’ve explained it to me. It seems like there’s honestly not much of a downside to turning in a score, because it seems like it will do nothing but help you,” said Genelly.

Head Counselor Brett Sklove weighs in on the issue of the benefits of the new test.

“Many if not all of the UCs are still accepting scores, so if you were able to take the test last spring, you can submit that test score. But what they’re saying is that the score is not required, so if you do not submit a score it cannot hurt you in any way. They are test-blind, and so what that means is that they will use that score, not so much for admissions but for after you’re already admitted,” said Sklove.

Sklove clarifies the intentions of the UCs with a bit of cautionary advice.

“They were really quick to say that it’s not required, it’s not part of this comprehensive review process in any way, shape or form,” said Sklove.

What is a part of the admissions process, however, is a long list of other attributes, both academic and social, that universities believe can help them get to know each applicant better. But for many students who have devoted a large portion of their time to studying and preparing for exams, there is a lack of clarity on where to redirect their attention. Sklove offers some guidance on where to start.

“One trap that you don’t want to fall into as a potential four-year college-bound student is that ‘I can’t do anything right now’ attitude. This is an opportunity for students to put their thinking cap on and show that they can think outside the box and be creative and take leadership roles and all of those fancy things that colleges want to hear about,” Sklove said.

Sklove leaves the student body with an important message.

“We’re really trying to let students know that the counseling office is open for business, and that they should definitely seek out their counselor with any questions they might have,” said Sklove.

As overwhelming as it may feel to many students to have the process they had been expecting turned upside down on them, silver linings can be found everywhere―the main one being that seniors can now take a breath, relax, and enjoy being the person they want to be on their college applications, rather than being reduced to a simple number or test score.