Before we get started here, we want to say congratulations to all the students who just completed their UC applications. This has been a difficult year for everyone, but you all have really shone.
With that out of the way, let’s get to the question on everyone’s mind.
“Do I STILL have to take the SAT or ACT if it’s not REQUIRED?”
For those of you looking for the quick answer, here it is:
- Yes for the students who are applying to universities that are “test optional” or “test required”
- No for the students applying to universities that aren’t taking test scores into account until the pandemic is over, which includes UCs and CSUs.
The long answer is, well, a lot longer.
First, let’s take a look at what happened with standardized testing this year. In September, a court order prohibited the UC’s from using SAT and ACT scores in admissions. They cited unequal access to such tests, particularly among the disabled student community. This may seem like an isolated COVID-19 response, but that’s not the entire picture. This ruling came after the UCs were already under immense pressure to abandon these tests from within. Even with this pressure, the court order only pertains to this year.
If you’re confused about the messaging, don’t worry, we are too. It looks like we are in a transitory phase where COVID has accelerated the response to the standardized testing outcries from various communities.
So, what are the UCs going to do? They really only have 3 options.
- Wait it out.
Once the pandemic is over, they can revert back to business as usual, requiring either the SAT or ACT, just without the Writing section.
- Replace the SAT / ACT with their own version.
The UC system made a similar announcement earlier this year, so it’s entirely possible to see a new test available in the coming years.
- Get rid of testing entirely.
This is rather unlikely but not possible. Standardized testing has been a hot topic in the admissions community for years. The primary argument against it is equity. It’s no coincidence that SAT scores correlate directly with affluence and zip codes. However, while getting rid of it might be a good idea, it also eliminates an extra data point that many students rely on to counterbalance a low GPA.
We’ll have to wait and see which one of these directions they will take in the coming years.
What about the CSUs?
The CSUs followed in the footsteps of the UC system and decided to suspend the use of SAT/ACT for the current admission cycle. Here’s what they’re most likely planning to do going forward.
- Since the court order doesn’t apply to CSU’s, CSU’s will likely resume its use of standardized test scores once the pandemic is over, likely in 2022.
- The CSU system relies on an entirely different admissions process from the UCs and most other universities. It explicitly publishes a GPA/SAT balance chart – or Eligibility Index – that it depends on to determine minimum eligibility of all candidates.
- Since it does not take into account extracurricular activities (rather just the numbers), it “needs” another number to balance out the GPA in case the GPA is low.
- It’s important to keep in mind that, whilst September’s court order doesn’t immediately apply to CSUs, it certainly can in the near future. The reason is because the court’s reasoning [students with disabilities not having equal access to standardized tests during the pandemic] is directly applicable to CSUs as much as it is to U’s. Furthermore, since CSU is also a public university system funded by California taxpayers, it may very well be subjected to the same restriction prohibiting use of the SAT/ACT during the pandemic. This is probably why CSUs decided to proactively eliminate the standardized test component from this year’s admissions.
How It Affects You
Okay, so what does this mean for you?
- Firstly, your GPA now matters a lot more. Before the pandemic, your GPA and SAT score would split points when it came to determining your academic potential. However, all those points are now shifting over to your GPA. Since about 50% of your candidacy depends on the numbers, that’s a lot of points now suddenly dependent on your grades, so make sure to get mostly A’s.
- Secondly, and naturally, your activities become more important. With test scores out of the picture, this should be no surprise. But how does one stay active during Covid? Drop us a message to find out, or we might put out a video to explain how we’re helping our students build their profiles during the pandemic.
- Thirdly, your College Applications become more important, particularly your Application Essays. Understanding why you did the things you did often times exceeds in importance what you did. After all, your reasoning, learning, and sense of purpose is what differentiates you from everyone else who did DECA, HOSA, and FRC…
We hope that this provides some valuable insight into what’s going on with the SAT and ACT. For a full feature and even more detail, check out our YouTube video about it.
We specialize in youth mentorship and college counseling. From 8th grade to 12th, we have you covered for any stage in your high school career. Schedule a free consultation with us here.
See you soon!