Before the horror of 2020 took place, the route from high school to college was well-paved, easily-navigated, and almost everyone knew the ins and outs.
To tell you the truth, it was so well thought out that people had set up profitable companies that promised to help students get into their first-choice colleges.
But then, 2020 happened.
The coronavirus shocked the planet and changed the way we did pretty much everything. Unfortunately, the formerly navigable path to college was flipped upside down too.
While things were changing in the process already, it was going to be a slow-burn affair. Instead, governors had to rush to make the adaptations due to the pandemic. The result? Utter mayhem.
Having said that, things are slowly beginning to straighten out to a point where we can actually make informative contributions as to how to apply for college.
To do this, we’ll start with the impacts that the coronavirus has made on the education system before we look into the various SAT and ACT changes.
Let’s get into it then!
COVID-19’s Impact on College Admissions
You now know that college admissions were changing anyway — albeit very slowly. However, it’s unmistakable how much the coronavirus pandemic has shifted the way we deal with the whole college process.
Not only is it students that are affected, but the parents are too! After all, no one is going to want to see their children fail or be put in potentially dangerous situations.
While we could get bogged down in this fact, it’s far better to truly understand the impacts that the pandemic has made. This way, you’ll be able to work with them during your college application and admissions process.
So, without further ado, let’s take a look at the specific impacts!
Impact One: Better Financial Aid Deals
Money has tightened considerably due to the pandemic. But, as far as college goes, this could be a good thing.
Families who initially had quite high incomes would not typically be able to qualify for college financial aids. This is because they use the previous two tax years which wouldn’t show the effects of the pandemic.
However, colleges that are afraid they won’t be able to fill all their freshman places have started to be far more lenient with their funding.
What schools are likely to be in this position? Think of private colleges in the midwest. They have been hit pretty badly and are experiencing fewer new intakes than in previous years.
Impact Two: Incomplete Grades are Expected
As the spring of 2020 hit and most schools started online teaching almost immediately, many high schools decided not to grade their students. Instead, they came up with other ways to show their pupil’s academic achievements.
Sadly, students weren’t reassured (at the time) that admissions officers would be sympathetic to incomplete grades so everyone became quite stressed. You may well have been one of these worried people!
But you can relax — incomplete grades are to be expected this year. They are focusing on class and coursework instead of exams and concrete marks.
Impact Three: References From Online Teachers
As you probably already know, along with tests, you need to submit a teacher reference with your college application. Until now, you were likely thinking that is impossible now the whole of America has switched to online learning.
But don’t worry too much because the majority of colleges are accepting references from teachers you know solely online. That’s right — regardless of whether you have met your high school teacher in real life, they can still provide a character reference.
Teachers can still give valuable references based on how you act and participate in an online environment. Cyber relationships are more important than ever before so this is a fantastic intel for your college.
Impact Four: Less Weight Put On Entrance Exams
Both SAT and ACT cancelled their test dates around April last year when the pandemic continued to grow in severity. Not to mention that lower-income students had very limited options to try the rescheduled exams.
Because of this, around 400 colleges decided to state that not having admission scores would not put students at a disadvantage.
After that announcement was made, everyone began to relax. However, things are still changing and some students — possibly including yourself — were outraged by the (necessary) switch to digital learning.
Speaking of outrage, this leads us on nicely to the ultimate retaliation in May 2020.
If you are involved in the education world at all, you will have probably heard about this whole debacle. But, if you don’t know what we’re talking about then don’t skip because it’s quite a story.
Students Sue The Board
Yup — we told you it was going to be a wild one!
The pandemic changed a lot of educational practices but the biggest one was undoubtedly the switch to digital learning and the path to your preferred college.
Well, some high school students decided to take it further than a mere argument. They went ahead and sued the College Board.
If you are not familiar with the College Board, it is the organization that runs the predominant college entrance exam, the SAT. The College Board It also is the organization that runs the primary college credit program for high school students, the Advanced Placement (or AP). In this particular lawsuit, students claimed that AP Exams were unfair in 2020 and unfairly favored students with resources (i.e. wealthy students).
They claimed that the placement tests gave an unfair advantage to students in high-income families and limiting those with poor/no computers or internet connections.
The students did have a somewhat valid case. The points they raised were as follows:
- The College Board AP Tests discriminated against the disabled, students without resources, and those living in extremely rural environments.
- The College Board wrongly assumes that all students have a quiet place to study and take tests and have a good internet connection.
As word continued to get out about this dispute, a group called FairTest joined in. They advocated for schools across the United States of America to stop conducting SAT and ACT tests because they seemingly segregate minority groups.
Okay, So What’s The Outcome?
Unfortunately, the College Board can’t read people’s minds or ensure everyone’s computer works swimmingly for the test. However, they are working to ensure that students can retake the test as soon as possible
Speaking of Entrance Exams…
For some of you, this is what you’ll have been waiting for — how are the SAT and ACT entrance exams changing to keep up with the current climate?
SAT and ACT | The Changes
Since the ACT and SAT are two separate things, we will tackle them in two sections. This way, we can make sure we cover all the details to ensure you’re fully informed.
Okay, SAT here we come!
The SAT Changes
Honestly, this one might come as a shock to you if you haven’t heard about it yet!
The biggest change is that the department is the fact that the College Board has permanently negated the need for SAT Subject Tests and essays. You read that right — SAT subject tests and essays are no longer a “thing”.
The statement they released stated that they were already making changes to eliminate these tests and the pandemic just accelerated the process!
Does This Mean That Anyone Can Go to Any College Then?
In a word, no. Allegedly, the College Board took the idea from Harvard College who stated that they were removing these test requirements for this application cycle because of COVID-19. All the College Board did was make it a permanent solution.
Extremely elite schools like Harvard College and Yale still have supremely high standards to gain admission.
Moreover, they might begin placing more importance on AP tests that are allegedly more profitable than the former SATs.
Is Everyone Happy About This Change?
Nope — but that’s to be expected. Nothing ever changes without somebody being unhappy with it.
The main thing is that the majority of students and governors seem to be pleased with the removal of the SAT. Even though some officials believe that it will just uncork a load of new stressors. Ultimately, that remains to be seen.
The ACT Changes
The ACT did take on a few major adaptations (although nothing as drastic as removing it from the admissions process entirely!). However, it will definitely take some getting used to since the changes have only taken place since September 2020.
In a nutshell, these are the three primary changes in the ACT:
- You will be able to take the test online or on paper. It’s up to you and your situation.
- You will be able to retake parts of the test with a view to retaking the whole exam.
- All the results will be super scored.
On the surface, all of this seems rather great. Well, there has been some controversy surrounding this matter.
The Retakes and The Fee
If you do poorly on a section of the ACT, you can retake that part as we mentioned earlier. However, you will have to pay a fee. This poured more fuel on the fire of the students who sued the College Board who believed that these changes benefited well-off students only.
With that being said, the option for digital test-taking does mean that the results can be delivered far quicker. Therefore, taking the stressful waiting out of participating in the exams.
Arguably, the superscore is the biggest change happening to this type of entrance exam. At least, it’s the change that is most likely to affect the admissions process. Although, colleges are allowed to drop out of this new system if they wish.
This scoring system only applies to those of you who have taken the ACT multiple times. The idea is that the admissions officers will grade them based on the score of their best results in the various subjects.
All in all, a pretty great format if you ask us!
What’s All This About Optional College Admission Tests?
Okay, you know all about the ACT and SAT changes now but that might be irrelevant if you decide you would like to go to a “test-optional” college.
Before the coronavirus, pupils stressed about the exams since they were the deciding factor between going to their first-choice college and failing.
However, colleges aren’t placing so much importance on these results anymore. Instead, they are becoming “test-optional” and according to many sources, they’re here to stay!
Fair Test reports showed that there are around 700 colleges that became test-optional during 2020, with 62 of them starting pilot programs.
The Definition of Pilot Programs
Pilot programs, in this case, are designed for colleges to analyze how well the test-optional practice works for them over two to five years. Think of it as a science experiment; they need to collect enough data first. These schools claim that by 2023, they will know if test-optional is truly the way to go.
The Bottom Line
The changes around the college admissions process have been a long time coming. However, it is a shame that they had to be so rushed due to the devastating global pandemic caused by COVID-19.
All things considered though, students may have even more opportunities to get into their first-choice college than ever before. Digital learning opens up avenues for exciting opportunities that may have gone unnoticed prior to 2020.
So yes, even though the college admissions process has changed and been impacted in many ways, there are silver linings in the gloomy clouds.