College & Workforce Readiness

Students Petition Colleges for SAT and ACT Flexibility Due to Coronavirus

By Catherine Gewertz — March 23, 2020 2 min read
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Worried that coronavirus testing disruptions will harm their college applications, a coalition of student groups is calling on colleges and universities to accept applications without SAT or ACT scores when application season starts up again next fall.

Led by Student Voice, the coalition posted a petition online Monday asking that admissions offices adopt test-optional policies for the application season that begins this fall.

The petition notes that the College Board has already cancelled its May SAT testing date, that the ACT has delayed its April date, and that experts project that the effects of the coronavirus will last for months. The widespread closure of schools will also disrupt college-admissions testing, since many students take the SAT or ACT free during the school day as part of statewide college-access initiatives.

“Because the SAT and ACT are required components of the majority of college applications, widespread cancellations will negatively impact current high school juniors as they apply to college in the coming year,” the petition said.

Even before the coronavirus, the test-optional movement had already spread to many colleges and universities, reflecting questions about the value and fairness of those exams. FairTest, an advocacy group that tracks that movement, lists more than 1,000 colleges that make SAT or ACT scores optional in admissions. But many still require—and assign a lot of importance to—those entrance exams.

“The college admissions process has always been daunting,” Maodan Tohouri, a junior at Amador Valley High School in Pleasanton, Calif., said in a statement released by Student Voice. “With the cancellations of the SAT, the feeling of anxiety is amplified. My friends and peers are trying to represent ourselves in the best light, but during this time some students will have to jump over more hurdles to do that.”

David Hawkins, the policy director for the National Association for College Admission Counseling, said a few colleges have discussed the possibility of waiving college-entrance-exam requirements for the next admissions cycle. Case Western Reserve University announced last week that it would go test-optional for the next admission cycle, in response to the coronavirus. Tufts University announced a three-year test-optional policy on Tuesday, and Boston University followed with a one-year policy on Wednesday.

But there isn’t a widespread inclination among colleges to do likewise, at least yet, Hawkins said.

“That could evolve, though, given the rapid pace of events,” he said in an email to Education Week. “If this somehow extends beyond a few months, all of that could change.”

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A version of this news article first appeared in the Teaching Now blog.