For most students, junior year is the year of SATs and ACTs. These tests are a huge part of the college admissions process, and often cost students in months of studying and thousands of dollars in test prep. However, due to the outbreak of COVID-19 this year, many students did not get a chance to take any standardized tests at all. As a result, a majority of colleges have begun promoting test-optional policies. 

There are varying levels of supplemental materials required in place of test scores at different schools. Wake Forest University, a school that has publicized having test-optional policies for multiple years, requires 7 supplemental essays. Other universities, such as the University of Maryland, require no additional items if opting out of submitting scores. Because of this drastic change in the typical college admissions process, many students are left confused about what to do. 

Lily Roberson, a rising B-CC senior who had not taken any standardized tests yet, said that schools going test optional has been positive because her “first test score definitely would not have been her strongest.” She was relieved she didn’t have to test and was able to rely on her grades and activities for her applications. Rising senior Miranda Neusner, also never had the opportunity to take any standardized tests. She said that test optional policies “will force colleges to accept students based on GPA” which she thought better reflects college readiness. Furthermore, Neusner felt that not having to report scores takes a burden off of students who would currently be studying for tests and can now use that time to focus on extracurriculars or schoolwork.

Not all students were relieved by this decision though. Nick Budington, who had taken the ACT already, felt test optional policies weren’t all fair. He said that students who took the ACT or SAT in advance and got very high scores will submit them, while others will have no scores at all, making their application look incomplete or not as good. He felt a better approach would be for colleges to not accept scores whatsoever. Similarly, Neusner felt that many students also end up with high scores and are accepted into top tier universities in part due to a paid tutor’s help and therefore dismissing ACT/SAT scores will make the college admission process more fair. As of right now, a number of colleges and universities are promoting their holistic review of prospective students, and telling applicants that not submitting a test score won’t be to their disadvantage. Budington felt that although this may be true, having a standardized test score would be to his advantage which is why not accepting scores would be completely fair for all students.

As more colleges and universities go test-optional, students are voicing their thoughts on the matter. Neusner sees the pros and cons of the new policy, while others such as Budington see it as a disadvantage. Either way, the policy is in effect for a large number of schools, and rising seniors for the class of 2021 have to decide whether they will submit their scores or not, while some haven’t even been able to take the test.