GUEST PIECE: COVID-19 suspension of SAT scores step in right direction


5 a.m., Friday morning, the middle of December.  I frantically open the College Board website, pessimistically bracing myself for an unsatisfactory SAT score that will end up with me needing to take the exam again.  Loading… loading… loading… done. Four numbers in bold. Four numbers that are supposedly a measure of how competent you are and how well you will fit in at a college or university.  Four numbers of which I was ridiculously proud. It was all I could do to keep myself from waking my parents and celebrating those numbers right then.

At the time, I believed that the SAT and ACT were ever-present exams that would be relevant to high schools and colleges for many, many years to come.  Of course, back then, I could never have predicted the global pandemic that would sweep through and disrupt it all.

As many of us may know, the University of California system has suspended the SAT/ACT requirement for 2021 applicants, since many juniors have been unable to take either exam due to COVID-19.  CSUs may also follow their example.

This is great news, right?  Apparently, it’s debatable.

A lot of people grumble about this change, from those in other grades to parents to fellow juniors who simply have no idea what issues it will cause when being considered for colleges.  There is a lot of confusion, and many feel as though they have been slighted by the college admission gods.

In all honesty, I was unjustly mad when I heard that all my hard work studying for that SAT was somewhat pointless.  All that pride that I and my parents felt seemed to be a waste. How was I ever going to get into a good college if I did not have my score to make me more competitive?  What was the point of spending all that money to take such an expensive exam?

As these angry questions swirled through my mind, I had a moment of realization.  I have the privilege to complain about my exam score because I am lucky enough to have taken it and gotten a score I liked.  Others are unable to say the same and are happy that a standardized test will not define how they are judged on an application.  After cooling down and thinking about it, I understand that happiness.

The suspension of SAT/ACT score requirements means that college admissions offices must focus on more relevant sections of students’ applications, such as their essays and extra curriculars.  These are far more indicative of a student’s personality and gifts than any multiple choice exam, which simply tests how well you can take the College Board’s specific test.

The fact is, circumstances like this quarantine put things into perspective.  It makes me wonder why those four numbers mattered so much to me and why they made me so happy.  Not everyone is a good test taker or is properly evaluated by tests like the SAT or ACT. Not everyone has the financial privilege to effectively study for or take these exams multiple times.  Not everyone, including the class of 2021, has even finished taking these exams.

After we get into college or university or wherever life takes us, SAT and ACT scores stop mattering.  They stop being scores that we can use to flex our academic muscles on each other. They become meaningless numbers.

Still, we — as students — pour hours of hard work, mental dedication, and emotional stress into studying for these exams.  We have every right to be proud of ourselves for even completing such stressful tests, never mind doing well on them. However, we should not place as much value on them as we do, for they do not define who we are and how successful we should feel personally.

This suspension of scores does not apply to every grade, and I understand how it feels unfair.  Nonetheless, this break away from the reliance on standardized test scores is a step in the right direction for both college admissions’ considerations and students’ own concepts of their self-worth.