How has the college admissions process changed with the COVID 19 Pandemic?

Ava Pope, Journalist

For many high school students, the SAT and ACT tests are a very long and stressful as well as an extremely important process. This year due to the COVID 19 pandemic, many schools opted to make these exams optional. Along with that, many colleges changed the requirement of the tests with hopes of making the admissions process slightly less stressful for students during an already stressful time. Although the majority of schools that waived the requirements only did this temporarily for students graduating with the class of 2021, some are extending this timeframe out for the next 4 years until the graduating class of 2024. 

Throughout the COVID 19 pandemic, almost every student spent at least part of the school year online. As schools have begun their transition back to in-person learning, many students and teachers have faced challenges with frequent and sudden changes. This weird school year made it easy for kids to fall behind or not get all of the classroom time and knowledge that they would during a typical school year. This will have long-lasting impacts, especially on younger students. With this, schools are trying to be more flexible with test scores and the admissions process as a whole. 

At schools that plan on keeping standardized tests optional, they are expected to create their own required admissions tests designed to see more specifically which students are a fit for the school. Many schools believe that the SATs carry too much weight, especially for a test that may not accurately display someone’s knowledge. Princeton’s dean of admissions, Karen Richardson said in a recent New York Times article “while our policy has long been that SAT subject tests are recommended but not required, now seems the appropriate time to reiterate that applicants who do not submit subject tests will not be disadvantaged in our process”. She goes on to explain how standardized tests are only a small representation of a student and their knowledge and ability, and it makes more sense to look at the person as a whole.

Along with just standardized testing, over the past year, many schools have had to go through the admissions process without looking at more than a semester’s worth of grades. At the beginning of the pandemic, most schools switched to pass/fail grading or stopped grading altogether. Beyond that, most schools will have to go without looking at almost a year of extracurricular activities, sports, music, and clubs that were not held in the pandemic. Without most of the requirements that schools previously had, the administrators have to find a completely new approach to getting kids into colleges. Most schools had students create a portfolio of work including writing samples and test scores and projects that represent who they are as a student and as a person, and tried to work off of that. 

In the next few years, it will be interesting to see how waving the requirements of standardized testing impacted the students and the school as a whole. Along with that, if the SAT and ACT are really as necessary as they are brought up to be or if writing samples and previous test scores will be enough. Will optional standardized testing become a permanent change?