When Covid-19 hit the United States, universities across the country found themselves facing a dilemma; many high school seniors applying to colleges did not have the resources to prepare for SAT/ACT examinations, due to the lockdowns. To compensate for this setback, many universities opted to forego test scores as a requirement for admission. Prepscholar states, “Because of stay-at-home orders, virtual learning, and canceled SAT and ACT exam dates, among other things, many universities are aware that it might be difficult or impossible for incoming high school seniors to take and do well on standardized tests in time for application deadlines.” Now, many universities have continued to waive the SAT/ACT requirements, and it is a possibility that this change may become a permanent fixture in academia. Although COVID-19 was a large factor in waiving SAT and ACT scores, it is not the only factor in these decisions. Another component, as pointed out by the New York Times, would be the college admissions scandals in 2020. These court cases demonstrated the financial disparity in the college admissions process. To better abolish inequity in the application process, the University of California, including 10 universities across the state, has plans to eliminate both SAT and ACT requirements completely within the next four years. The NY Times states, “The change is expected to accelerate the momentum of American colleges away from tests, amid concerns that they are unfair to poor, black and Hispanic students.” The purpose of eliminating this requirement is to make the application process more fair for all applicants, regardless of socioeconomic status.
Removing the test requirements helps to level the playing field between wealthy and poor students applying to universities. The Washington Post mentions the inequality in education: “Kids from poor families do worse than kids with more money. Wealthy parents can provide benefits that many poor families can’t, such as tutors, learning opportunities, the best medical care and schools with ample sources.” Students from wealthier families receive more support and resources from their parents and from their schools than poorer students would. The scores received on these exams therefore, may not necessarily be a reflection of academic competence, but rather a distribution of wealth amongst students’ families. If SAT/ACT score requirements are eradicated, all students have a more equal chance of acceptance to colleges, since these test scores can oftentimes be a reflection of better SAT preparation resources for wealthier students. Another NY Times article also wrote that getting rid of these tests would not hinder ambitious students from applying to colleges; rather, applications would be simpler, according to those who argue for the tests to be taken out of the application process. According to Manuel Bermudez, a College Coach, as well as CEO of TutorZone, there will now be a greater importance placed on personal essays, “where students can tell their personal story and that matters to colleges.” Removing these test requirements opens the door to more students who would not be able to enter otherwise, due to the inequality of the education system.
Standardized tests exist for a reason–to create a standard. Having every student take these tests helps institutions rank students’ progress. NY Times writes, “A faculty task force commissioned to study the impact of standardized tests found that they predict college success within the University of California system more effectively than high school grades or other measures.” SAT and ACT scores help universities assess whether or not a student would be able to do well if admitted. Assessing students’ aptitude may be more difficult if standardized tests are removed from the system. However, the article continued to say that SAT and ACT scores proved helpful for Latino and African American students because students were not assessed only based on their grades in school, increasing their chances of being accepted.
Whether or not schools will require SAT/ACT scores remains up to the university. UC schools have erased the SAT/ACT requirements from their applications. On the other hand, Stanford, for example, continues to require SAT/ACT scores. How this change will impact students over the next decade and beyond remains to be seen. In the meantime, helping students learn to express themselves through writing is important. Many universities will be looking at applicants’ personal essays and the stories they have to share through those essays. Without SAT/ACT scores, more emphasis will be placed on students’ personal stories, and the best way to help students prepare for this change in emphasis is to train them to be proficient writers.
Written by Natalia H.