Standardized test scores have long been a staple of the college application. Students generally start studying for the SAT or ACT well in advance and schedule multiple test dates to submit the highest scores possible. This type of testing was deemed useful to colleges and universities because it was supposed to be indicative of student performance: a direct, concrete way to evaluate academic skills. However, the reality is not exactly that.
Standardized testing has undergone quite a bit of criticism as well, bringing to light biases against race and socio-economic status, and little prediction of future academic performance. So COVID-19 has been the straw that broke the camel’s back in a struggle of universal acceptance.
It’s clear that the pandemic has changed the old ways of applying to college. With many colleges and universities giving students a break this year and adopting temporary or permanent test-optional policies, there is a whole new game to master.
According to a recent article, the test optional application has required admissions officers to take a new stance when evaluating prospective students. Whereas before, testing was a relatively simple way to classify students into ranks, without it, other factors such as GPA, essays and recommendations are gaining more weight and importance.
From an admissions standpoint, the shift away from testing shouldn’t mean that it will be more difficult and time-consuming to evaluate applications, but that applications will be approached from a different perspective. One such approach is polling, used by admissions officers to rate candidates based on their transcripts. This technique is used now at Cornell.