Students complete their class work at Downtown Magnets High School in L.A. (Los Angeles Times)
Arnold O. Beckman High School

Opinion: Colleges should still require standardized testing scores despite COVID-19

While countless seniors are celebrating — and mourning over their college decisions, current high school juniors are constantly worried about the impact COVID-19 would bring once school is resumed.

With standardized testing cancellations, changes in AP testing format and the inability to physically meet with counselors and teachers, high schoolers, in general, are anxious about the outcome of this pandemic.

However, I believe the biggest side effect of this virus is definitely the SAT and ACT cancellations or postponements. Specifically for juniors, including myself, this year is the “ideal” time for taking the college entrance exams.

At the start of this school year, I heard from countless high school teachers and counselors that juniors should start preparing for the SATs and ACTs and start registering for them.

That is exactly what I did, but unfortunately, these exams were all canceled up until May.

And even so, June and the following August SATs are not promised to be available. Those test dates are more likely to be canceled, as the U.S. has reached 161,807 confirmed cases of COVID-19 as of March 31, according to the L.A. Times.

Despite this unfortunate news to juniors worldwide, I believe that standardized testing must still be a requirement when applying for institutions this fall.

A few decades ago, someone coined the phrase “numbers are not everything” when it came to college admissions.

This year, in almost every college advice YouTube video I have watched, the YouTubers mouthed this saying to assure the viewers that there are other major factors such as extracurriculars or essays in the decision process.

So, it got me wondering if scores are not everything, why do students still undergo the mundane task of studying, studying and studying, to get so close to the 1600 or 36 mark?

Then I came to a conclusion. It is because colleges utilize these exams as a benchmark for determining whether the applicants are ready to handle the workload of the respective college.

That is why every college releases a freshman profile, to allow students to visually see what scores are needed to match the standards of whichever college.

If this benchmark is optional, and every student can apply without a standardized testing score, too many changes will occur in the admissions and application process. The whole notion of safety, target, and dream pyramid will be practically destroyed.

In order to determine which schools are in these following categories, students must utilize standardized test scores as well as grade point averages. Without numbers, it is simply impossible to set your standards and apply accordingly.

Not only that, but unfair advantages will also occur.

The March SAT specifically, was not canceled worldwide; rather, it was canceled in 17 nations, and the others still continued on. If standardized testing as a whole is optional, students that have acquired top-notch scores before the outbreaks would be at an advantage against the others who did not.

In addition, those who can afford to travel outside of their current regions to take the test in another will be able to still obtain a score despite cancellations in some countries.

It will essentially lead to a greater educational gap between the rich and the poor — what colleges wanted to fix for decades.

Colleges should, however, consider this situation for juniors across the world. Simple measures such as making SAT 2s not required or allowing students to submit standardized test scores late can more than benefit students.

There still exist multiple test dates at the start of the next school year, which is when researchers predict COVID-19 to officially end, and students can utilize those sessions to achieve the scores they desire.

In fact, some institutions have already announced already that standardized testing will have less of an impact on admissions. For example, Harvard, one of the most world-renowned universities posted an update recently.

“We know that there are fewer opportunities to take the SAT or ACT given the cancellations to date,” a statement on Harvard College‘s website said. “This means that many students may not be able to take these tests more than once. The fact is that there are diminishing returns in taking these tests multiple times, and we hope students will not feel compelled to do so now or in the future.”

Students, especially juniors, should not lose hope with the continuous cancellations occurring and should engage in testing once the virus comes to an end.