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How Covid Called for Change within the College Process

by Greg S. ’22

In the years leading up to the college application process, the SAT and ACT have been a personal source of stress and anxiety. I am not the best at taking standardized tests, let alone a test that is over 3 hours in length covering many different academic subjects. Amidst the Covid outbreak in 2020, many colleges and universities had to pivot when it came to requiring standardized tests on applications. The ACT and SAT have been around since 1959; they are baseline tests that assess academic aptitude and strength. In the beginning the most prestigious colleges had their own tests to assess each prospective applicant. The colleges banded together to create one long and mentally complex standardized test that covered every relevant school subject. And since its debut it has been considered mandatory for every college, that is until now. The pandemic made it impossible for large gatherings, as they were breeding grounds for COVID-19. Because of this students who had signed up to take either the ACT or SAT had test dates that were either canceled or pushed back, making it impossible for them to submit test scores 

In order for high students to effectively study and prepare for the SAT or ACT they must be able to pay for all the different costs needed to prepare for and take the test. Many underprivileged and minority high schooler students struggle to access resources to study and partake in the testing process. Because of this and the challenges COVID-19 posed, colleges switched to “test optional” and promised that not submitting test scores would have no negative effect on your application as a whole. This change afforded students fortunate enough to take the test the chance to submit their score while others doing the latter would not be penalized for not submitting a test score. This caused colleges to take a more holistic approach to review applications. Many students who were very involved in extracurricular activities as well as maintaining a proficient gpa were relieved. There were other students counting on their test scores to set them apart from other applicants and showcase their academic accomplishments. Through this article, I wanted to share the stories of a handful of Northwest students, including myself, about how testing impacted our college application process. 

Katie N. ’22 said that for her “it was stressful comparing the practice SAT scores to that of other students and the accepted scores for colleges.” I was fortunate enough to be able to take practice tests, even while still questioning if I would end up taking the actual SAT. I was unable to end up taking the test as many others in my class. I opted to not submit my scores to any college I applied to. I felt slightly relieved with the promise of colleges reassuring students that not submitting scores would not affect the strength of your application. Some students, including Katie, were able to take the test. She ended up driving 5 hours to take the test in person. In the end, she submitted her scores to certain colleges, but not all. The resources, time, and money needed to take the test is extremely disproportionate for many families. 

Lily G. ‘22 believes “the test is an unfair measure of academic understanding.” Within the test itself she found it unfair to include reading sections with very limited time to read, comprehend, and answer the 52 questions in the section. The ACT and SAT have brought up much controversy around if it should be reshaped or taken out completely. Both Lily and Katie believe that the test does hold some positives. They believe “it is beneficial because of grade inflation and feeder schools that work hard to deceive or inflate their students’ applications.” These “feeder” high schools have a chokehold on sending their students to top universities, which is a plus, but it should not take away from other applicants’ chances simply because of financial abundance. Looking towards the future of college applications, Rachel Fumia, one of Northwest’s college counselors, is hopeful that the application process will only improve and become a more equitable process for high schoolers. 

Check out more information on the moves colleges are making to waive standardized testing here: New York Times: “More Colleges are Waiving SAT and ACT Requirements”

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