Olivia Kane ’21 considers the college process

Olivia Kane, Senior Editor

On the last day of classes before school closed early, I remember some of my classmates saying that it might be the last time we saw each other this year. At the time I laughed quietly to myself, believing this to be an overreaction, and perhaps the wishful thinking of students who hoped to avoid the grueling work that comes with being a high school junior. However, as the days passed and the situation worsened, SAT centers for the March test date announced that they would not administer the test. Many students opt to take a variety of standardized tests in the spring of their junior year and spend months preparing for these spring testing dates. A few weeks later the College Board and ACT announced that the May and June SAT and the April ACT test would be cancelled across the country.

I suddenly felt unsure about what this would mean for my college process. Already all the colleges that I had planned to tour over Spring Break had announced cancellations. Although I worried about not being able to tour campuses and explore the environment of different colleges, I was far more concerned with the test cancellations. Many students take these standardized tests multiple times to get their best scores. However, with fewer testing dates available, that possibility is not as feasible. Additionally, in the spring of junior year, students often take a variety of subject tests and AP exams. As of this year, no college requires subject tests; however, they are still recommended by many. Standardized testing can be one of the most stressful parts of the college admission process. The sudden anxiety of how I was going to be able to take multiple subject tests and the SAT was crushing. I had been looking forward to finishing these tests in the spring of my junior year so I would not have to obsess over them during the summer. However, COVID-19 has made it likely that many juniors will have to take the SAT for the first time in August and retest in September. Many will skip standardized testing altogether, especially after the UC system’s decision to go test-optional. 

Additionally, the change in AP exams this year was a disappointment. I was surprised that these exams were not cancelled as A Levels were in the United Kingdom. The College’s Board choice to administer the APs, although shortened to 45 minutes, has greatly frustrated me. I have spent all year working on hard and advanced material and I do not believe that a 45 minute exam can accurately reflect my knowledge of that material. Some of the quizzes that I have taken in my AP classes were longer than the actual exam will be this year. 

The college admissions process for the class of 2021 is going to be vastly different from those of previous high schoolers. Indeed, colleges have announced that they understand the unprecedented circumstances and have made decisions to work with students in this time, such as going ‘test optional’ or de-emphasizing the importance of subject tests. But how will juniors be able to take any standardized tests even if social distancing guidelines loosen up? If they cannot, will colleges be forced to rethink that aspect of the admission process?  Without the option of tours for the foreseeable future, how will juniors truly be able to come to the decision about wanting to attend a certain college?