Good news students and parents! As of June 23, the ACT will have 3 additional Fall 2020 testing dates. This decision comes as a response to the necessary safety precautions that will now have to be implemented in testing centers nationwide. As testers will be spaced farther apart, and capacity will be limited, acquiring a testing spot could become difficult, or you may be asked to move centers. Students will be admitted according to priority, beginning with Seniors who have not had the opportunity to take the test, and then Juniors, and so on and so forth.
We know that college admissions and testing may be the last thing on your family’s minds right now, and for good reason. It is a valid and healthy choice to place your attention elsewhere, and for far too many of students, it is becoming a necessity. But on the flipside, it is also OK to cope by planning for the future. Students are so used to being busy, that this lull in productivity runs the chance of leaving some feeling more anxious or depressed than usual. We care about your students, and we would like to offer up information that we feel will aid you in making the difficult decisions that will come up as you advance into College Admissions in the Covid Age.
Test Optional vs. Test Blind
First, we want to highlight the differences between test optional and test blind. If a school lists itself as test optional, that means you do not need to send in a test score, but they do allow it. If a school lists itself as test BLIND, that means they do not offer any space on their application to send in a test score.
- 85% of liberal arts schools have gone test optional
- 55% of research universities have gone test optional
To Test or Not to Test
Now, in the same way that we treat AP tests as “optional”, (they are, but are they really?) we must treat this new option. It is up to you and your student to decide what the safest and most beneficial route will be fore you to take. Not sure if you should take the test? If you can score in the top 50% of the school you want to test into, by all means, TAKE THE TEST! If there is any element of your application that is not 100%, TAKE THE TEST! If you have safe access to a test site, TAKE THE TEST! It can never hurt to at least attempt. However, if you have testing anxiety, are severely affected by Covid 19, or have some other unique circumstance, it may actually be better to go for a test optional school. It really does vary case by case.
One other thing we want to mention, is that if your student is going to be attending college as an athlete, international student, merit scholar, or is coming from a homeschooling background- it is vital to your process that your family tracks the individual schools. Many of these activities/special case situations, have specific GPA and testing requirements. A school could be test blind this year, notice the increased amount of testing, and decide to switch back to test optional. as times are everchanging, it may become necessary to designate specific dates for checking on your schools. This can even be apart of your testing strategy.
What to Expect
Sure, Covid changes in testing might be a smaller concern for students right now, but it is actually quite remarkable the level of impact something as small as a mask can have on an individual’s test score. The first thing to watch out for is acquiring a testing spot. Be aware that test sites will fill up fast, due to reduced seating. This may mean that you have to drive further than normal, in order to acquire a testing spot. Next, at check in, students will have to answer questions about their health, as well as fill out a health questionnaire. The overall process will be longer, so plan your arrival time accordingly. Lastly, masks and possibly gloves (dependent on test sites) will be required throughout the duration of the test. All masks and gloves will be checked to protect against cheating, prior to the start of the test.
If these things are a concern to you, by all means practice. If you need to practice taking the test while wearing a mask, do it! Masks can affect your breathing or temperature, increase anxiety, or lead to other issues that will only disrupt your concentration. Do not feel dumb for this, in fact- you can look at it as athletic training. In the same way an athlete has to train differently, in order to prep for different environments or feats, you too must train for the environment in which this will be taken.
What Your Student Can Do Now
One of our most crucial tips, is to create a plan. You know as well as we do, that testing dates, school dates, and application deadlines can mix into a terrifying cloud of unknowns- get ahead of it! Create a spreadsheet of testing requirements by school, along with potential deadlines- to ensure that you are looking at the full picture. By doing so, you have already begun to create your master plan. Continue this plan by inputting test dates, personal deadlines, and other necessary reminders in order to create a holistic outlook of your upcoming year. Do not just decide on the SAT, because it simply feels like it might be a better option- create a tangible strategy that can help you narrow down which test is actually best for your student. Next, have your student take a diagnostic test! if they test well, it means that they are not only ready for, but they SHOULD, take the test. Lastly, stay focused on what you CAN do, and what IS in your control. Try your best to not get stuck on the unknowns or the stress of changing times.