I don’t have to tell you that, due to COVID-19, students are facing a great number of uncertainties surrounding testing opportunities right now—
- Whether testing centers are and will remain open,
- Whether students can get seats locally without having to travel across town or to a neighboring city or state,
- Whether testing conditions are safe for students and staff (especially those with underlying conditions),
- Whether students will be able to achieve a test score that appropriately highlights their abilities and do so in time to meet application and scholarship deadlines
It’s a lot.
So, I recommend not testing at all this year (even if testing is possible in your area & circumstances) and applying without SAT/ACT test scores instead.
I know, this flies in the face of what you’ve heard for years and may also be counter to other advice you’ve seen recently. Read on for more details, including some specific circumstances.
Why Test Optional?
Taking advantage of the test-optional climate for the 2020-2021 admissions season can signal to colleges that jumping through this hoop when you’re already managing increased stress and navigating seismic shifts to your life—academic and otherwise—is unnecessary and unrealistic. The overwhelming number of colleges recently announcing test-optional admissions for 2020-2021 and beyond shows that many colleges understand this scenario [e.g., see University of California system, Oregon State, FairTest].
Research shows that these tests do not measure what colleges claim they do and instead highlight a student’s privilege and opportunity more accurately than predicting their college success. Furthermore, the ACT & SAT serve as barriers to the access and inclusion of traditionally underrepresented students [source]. Pushing back against test policies is one way that we can all help move the needle towards more equitable college admissions practices.
If test-optional admission feels like an option for you, please consider doing that.
Unfortunately, many colleges currently still require test scores for admission to the college itself, for certain majors or programs, and/or for scholarships. For students planning to apply to these colleges, including here in Arizona*, Seniors should definitely make a testing plan for this fall.
Keeping Track of ACT/SAT Dates
We’ve put together this FREE RESOURCE showing all currently scheduled 2020-2021 ACT & SAT Test Dates.
Make Your Testing Plan
If you intend to apply to a college with a November/December/January application deadline, strive to register for an exam in August/September and also one in October/November. This will give you the flexibility of having two dates in case one gets canceled and also afford you the opportunity to re-test if test centers remain open and your first test score warrants it. (Note that the exam fee may not be refundable should you cancel that second exam, so give this consideration before paying for two test dates.)
If you’ll be applying to college between January and March (especially if you’re in pre-Calculus), consider pushing your two testing dates to October/November and December/January.
If you only need a test score for scholarship consideration, check the deadline for score submissions. Some public universities (including in Arizona*) may allow students to update their test scores for scholarship consideration as late as May or into the summer. In this case, accrue some good testing karma and try not to be in a rush for the earliest testing dates this fall, leaving those seats for students with early application deadlines.
What About Juniors and Younger Students?
You’ll notice I haven’t mentioned Juniors (11th graders) yet. Juniors, please consider waiting until a 2021 date to begin testing in order to allow ample opportunity for the Seniors to get their testing completed prior to their application deadlines. There will be plenty of opportunities for you to test beginning in January, March, or even May, depending on your developing college list and application plan.
Underclass students (10th grade and younger), the only reason you should be testing until at least summer 2021 is in the event a test score is required for a special summer or extracurricular program you’re applying to. Otherwise, build up your testing karma and leave the 2020-2021 dates for older students whose testing opportunities are being limited by school and test site closures due to COVID-19.
Registering for the ACT
ACT registration for 2020-2021 opens sometime this week. To be notified of the specific date/time, sign up for email notifications here.
[July 31 update: ACT registration unofficially opened on July 27, launching a new registration system in addition to the remainder of the 2020 test dates. The system could not handle the traffic generated by those attempting to register, and it crashed. ACT turned off registration and intends to open it again on August 3. Be patient for at least those first few days.]
Registering for the SAT
All of the 2020-2021 SAT test dates are open for registration here.
For those looking at Arizona’s public universities, ASU, UofA, and NAU continue to be test-optional for admission—but not for some majors or the Honors college and not for merit scholarships. [grrrr!]
Northern Arizona University (NAU), however, states that “Beginning 2020-2021 for incoming freshman only, ACT and SAT test scores are not required for initial [scholarship] evaluation.”