The coronavirus pandemic is creating a lot of stress and anxiety for students, especially current juniors, who are entering the college admissions cycle next fall. Since the March and May SAT tests were canceled and the April ACT was postponed, students aren’t sure when they will be able to take the test next. Many were planning to take the SAT or ACT for the first time this spring, but now will have no base test score to help them create a college application list.

The good news is that colleges are responding to these uncertain times by changing their standardized testing policies. Quite a few prominent colleges have adopted a test-optional policy for the 2020-2021 admissions cycle, meaning that they will not require students to submit test scores for the SAT or ACT as part of their admissions requirements. Colleges such as Tufts University, Boston University, Case Western, Amherst, and the University of California system have all adopted a short term test-optional policy. Depending on how long this pandemic lasts, it is very likely that more schools will follow suit.

The trend toward test-optional admissions requirements has already been gaining speed. A recent study released in the journal, Educational Researcher, in January revealed that high school GPAs are a stronger predictor of graduation rates than ACT scores. According to FairTest.org, the organization that tracks test-optional colleges, a record number of colleges dropped their testing requirements in 2019, among those some of the top liberal arts colleges in the country. This pandemic has pushed some schools to quicken the pace to adopting test-optional policies. While some of the newly-introduced policies are only for the next application cycle, it is possible that schools will retain them for the long term if they produce positive results.

Students should continue to check college websites to see what their testing policies are as the fall application cycle nears. For a comprehensive list, FairTest.org is continuing to update its list of test-optional schools as more colleges announce test-optional policies for the next admissions cycle.

Even as an increasing number of schools adopt test-optional policies, it is still recommended that all students take the SAT or ACT. The majority of schools in the country still require standardized testing scores, and some, even those that are test-optional, may use SAT or ACT for scholarships or merit aid. Students should plan to register for the next available testing dates for the SAT or the ACT as they become available.

The good news is that admissions offices are run by people, and right now there is no one in the world unaffected by this pandemic. College admissions will adapt to this new reality for the class of 2021. Whether colleges adopt test-optional policies or not, there will be a certain level of flexibility and understanding built into this next admissions cycle due to the unprecedented circumstances that everyone is facing.

Looking for more information about college admissions? Check out this article about how to complete your college visits virtually!