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Is the New Test-Optional Advantage for College Having a Negative Effect?

Image by Meri Helen from Unsplash

Last updated on May 4, 2022

The issues that have accompanied the coronavirus pandemic have been widespread. Illnesses, death, economic hardships, mental health issues, and more resulted from it. Furthermore, it is obvious that everyone continues to be affected by this global crisis. This is especially true with students.

For high school students everywhere, it has been particularly hard. Remote learning was a challenge itself. Children were not able to access the help they needed for their academics. High school students in particular found trouble preparing for their final exams, AP exams, and SAT’s/ACT.

Covid and Test-Optional Applications

In 2021, over a thousand universities went test-optional, not requiring students to submit their ACT/SAT test scores. This is due to the fact that students could not leave their homes to take these tests during the prime of the pandemic. This gave high school students one less thing to worry about for college. However, it ended up affecting them negatively this year when it was time for them to apply to colleges.

Pre-Covid, colleges looked at a multitude of things: overall GPA, extracurriculars, volunteer hours, and ACT or SAT scores. For each college, there was a criterion of necessities that college admissions officers reviewed on students’ resumes. For example, if a student fulfilled their GPA criteria, but not their ACT/SAT score criteria, there was not a great chance that the student could get into that particular school. This was true even if their college essays, extracurriculars, and other applications were excellent. Many students found it difficult to get the ACT/SAT score they needed to apply for schools, as not everyone is a great standardized test taker. Instead, they would not apply for particular schools, meaning that the number of applicants for certain schools, especially top ones, was fewer.

Acceptance Rates on a Downward Slope

Now that more schools are becoming test-optional, including some of the top schools in the country, more students are applying to schools. However, the number of students that they can accept is less, since they have a limited room for their freshmen class.

All over the country, high school students graduating this year have expressed that it was particularly hard to get into schools. This includes even their target schools, which are schools that they should be able to get into with their statistics. 

For example, for Northeastern University in the 2020-2021 school year, the acceptance rate was about 20%, accepting 13,199 of 64, 279 appllications. In the 2021-2022 school year Northeastern received a “record-large pool” of 90,089 applications and only 6,179 were accepted. The acceptance rate for this year was a jarring 6.7%. 

Although the test-optional variant for college is not the only reason why college acceptance rates have declined this year, it certainly is a significant one.

This leaves students to ponder: is applying test-optional even worth it for some schools? Will the acceptance rates decline even further next year? If this downward slope continues, getting into college is likely to get more difficult as time goes on.

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