As the spring semester nears its halfway point, juniors have had their senior counselor meetings and are looking towards not only their final year of high school, but also the college admissions process. A large part of that process usually includes SAT and ACT preparation. This year, rather than studying for the SATs, many students are trying to figure out if they should take them at all. As more colleges are becoming test-optional due to the pandemic, students are trying to determine whether or not it is worth taking the test.
“I think whether it’s worth it or not depends on the student,” counselor Jim Hu said, “What are their skill sets? What does their academic profile look like right now? There’s a lot to making that determination.”
Since a majority of colleges aren’t requiring SATs, they have decided to look at different parts of students’ applications more than they have in the past.
“I think the movement of making SATs more optional is a really good thing for many students, because it allows colleges to focus on the student as a whole,” Hu said. “It gives students an opportunity to showcase all the other things that are spectacular, not just a set of numbers.”
With this shift towards a more holistic view of student applications, some students are viewing the SAT as a backup rather than a factor of high importance.
“If I don’t do really well on it I’m not going to be super hard on myself, because it’s not as big of a deal,” junior Phebe Klinge (who is planning on taking the SAT in May) said.
Since many colleges are looking at SATs differently than normal, it is important for students to find colleges that they are interested in and look into what those colleges’ policies on the SATs are.
“You want to have a list of schools you are working off of. Those schools will then help you understand what the requirements are,” Hu said. “Not every school is going to have the same requirements.”
UCs have gone entirely test blind. This means UCs will not accept SAT or ACT scores. Many schools will be test-optional, meaning that if you choose to submit test scores, they will look at them. Other schools will remain test-required for their applications.
“UCs and California State Colleges don’t look at the SATs, so I was like ‘Oh, then why take it,’” junior Sally Cesko said. “The only conversation I’ve really had about it at all was during my junior meeting with my counselor. She said that unless you are applying to a private college, then they won‘t really look at that.”
If students are planning to apply to test-optional schools, there are some things that they may want to take into consideration.
“Do a lot of those online diagnostics, like Khan Academy,” Hu said. “Through the practice exams, you can kind of get a sense of what your scores might be like. That’s a good starting point to see how SAT and ACT scores would help you.”
Using online diagnostic tools and test preparation may allow students to decide if the SAT is worth taking for them. They can also use resources such as fairtest.org to understand how standardized tests can be both harmful or beneficial to students, and to see what schools are requiring standardized tests. “It’s always important to keep those options in control,” Hu said, “Don’t eliminate the idea to take the tests; do some research and some practice exams so you know how the SAT and ACT will play for you.”