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The College Board and the ACT, which run the SAT and ACT tests, respectively, have struggled over the last few weeks, and their actions are affecting the larger college admissions landscape. Things are likely to change even more, but for now, here are the latest developments:
First, SAT registration opened for rising seniors, and within hours students and parents were crowding the College Board phone lines and social media pages insisting they were unable to sign up. Amid all this chaos, the ACT ousted their CEO after their gamble not to cancel June test dates resulted in hundreds of test centers cancelling anyway, at the last moment.
More bad news emerged for the tests when the SAT was forced to admit that they would not be able to have online testing in the fall, as previously promised, which means that if schools and test centers cannot open, students will not be able to take the test at all.
As these developments occurred, Columbia University also announced that it would now become part of the ever-growing list of schools suspending their standardized testing requirements for students applying in the 2020-2021 application cycle. Hours later, Dartmouth College joined them, and the University of Pennsylvania and the University of Virginia followed suit the next day. It seems likely that further elite schools will take similar courses of action in the coming days, as dozens of liberal arts colleges and lower-ranked universities had already done prior to these latest developments.
Of course, no one knows exactly what's going to happen. It's possible that the fall test dates will indeed happen in person, and many students will apply with scores in hand. However, while many selective schools like having standardized test scores as a data point, it seems increasingly likely that they will be disappointed on that front this year.
First, don't panic! These frustrating vacillations are affecting every single high school junior across the country, so you are not alone in facing challenges, and admissions officers are 100% aware of that fact. These developments are simply a continuation of trends we've already discussed.
If you can register to take the SAT this fall, you should still do so because having a good score is always an advantage. However, mentally prepare yourself for the possibility that the tests may not happen. If that does prove to be the case, don't worry! You won't be penalized for something that's completely out of your control.
Finally, regardless of whether the tests can move forward or not, know that essays, interviews, and recommendation letters are going to matter substantially more than ever before. You'll want to use these application components to stand out among a crowd of applicants that can no longer be as easily thinned by test scores.