Colleges around the nation revisit standardized testing requirements

As college application cycles begin, students try to decipher the differences between various types of test-taking policies

Colleges around the nation revisit standardized testing requirements

The process of college applications adjusted itself with the prominence of new rules and policies throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. The introduction of new test-taking policies changed the way that students and colleges evaluated applications.

As students navigated applications without the guidance of in-person schooling, universities across the country were changing their test-taking policies, fluctuating between test-mandatory, test-blind and test-optional.

The University of California system was among the first to change to a test-blind policy for the high school class of 2021. After a successful season of applications, the test blind policy for the UC system will be continuing through 2024, with the possibility of a new standardized test following.

“UC will not consider ACT or SAT test scores for admissions decisions or the awarding of scholarships for any applicants,” reads the University of California’s Exam Requirements page.

The test-blind policy means that students’ submissions of standardized test scores will not be considered in regards to their application, even if they are submitted. Many reasons factored into changes made to the testing policies, one being a lawsuit that the test optional policy is a violation of individual civil rights.

The absence of test scores has often led to questioning the weight of other factors in the application process, one of them being letters of recommendation.

“A lot of schools are not taking tests so it will make the letters of recommendation more important,” English teacher Kathy Schultheis said.

Not every school is abiding by this same policy, however, with the vast majority in the United States being either test-optional or test-mandatory.

“A test-optional college lets students decide whether they want to submit test scores with their application,” said College Data. “Most test-optional schools will consider SAT and ACT scores if they are submitted, but focus on other factors they believe are stronger predictors of a student’s potential to succeed in college.”

As the country reopens, testing centers are becoming increasingly available and many universities have reversed their previously test-blind policies to test-optional.

Even so, many students are still unsure of whether submission of a standardized test score will harm or benefit their applications.

“I’m just not sure if I should submit or not now that many schools have altered their SAT policies,” said senior Nirvani Pathak. “Every school has different requirements for what they require or do not require.”

Oak Park High School counselors and College and Career Center faculty have defined the factors in a college application as a set of data points, the SAT or ACT being one of them. Without the inclusion of a score, the application will be judged on only the data points present.

Students should research each college’s admitted student test scores from prior years,” said College and Career Center faculty member Julie Prince in a StudentSquare post. “If your score falls in or close to the seventy-fifth percentile range, then you may want to submit your score as it allows for an additional data point when evaluating your application,” says College and Career Center faculty member, Julie Prince in a StudentSquare post.

However, Oak Park High School teachers continue to encourage their students to take the tests as they remain uncertain on whether optional truly means optional.

“I think that it’s unfortunate that they’re not being more candid about that,” Schultheis said. “There are schools like Northwestern that say they’re tes optional, but require it, as I understand. It’s hard to get in without taking the test.”