COVID leads more colleges to go SAT/ACT optional

'There are other ways to ensure we are admitting students who will be successful'
By: | September 8, 2020
College administrators are dropping SAT and ACT test admissions requirement to reduce stress on families and students coping with COVID disruptions. (GettyImages/Chris Ryan)College administrators are dropping SAT and ACT test admissions requirement to reduce stress on families and students coping with COVID disruptions. (GettyImages/Chris Ryan)

COVID’s continued disruptions of higher education and K-12 have led more colleges of all sizes to go test-optional, dropping admissions requirements for students’ SAT and ACT scores.

The four institutions in the University of Houston System have shifted to test-optional admissions through summer 2022 because the pandemic has “wreaked havoc” with SAT and ACT testing dates and locations.

“While standardized tests have long been used as an important metric, we know there are other ways to ensure we are admitting students who will be successful on our campuses,” Paula Myrick Short, the system’s senior vice chancellor for academic affairs, said in a statement. “This is a time that requires all of us to be flexible and creative.”

Applicants who do not submit test scores and whose high school GPA does guarantee their admission will undergo a holistic review, which includes completing a resume highlighting special talents, honors, work, volunteer and family responsibilities.


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Students also will submit essays detailing their academic profiles and experiences.

Each of the system’s four universities has established its own criteria for admissions:

“Student success is the bottom line when universities determine the criteria for admission,” Richard Walker, the system’s vice chancellor for student affairs and enrollment services, said in a statement. “We will continue to automatically admit any student graduating in the top 10% of their Texas high school class, and we have adopted additional admission standards for those applicants without test scores.”

‘Fear and confusion’ around SATs & ACTs

Dickinson College in Pennsylvania is going “test-blind” for class of 2025 applicants, after having been test-optional since 1994.

Test-blind means the college’s admissions committee will not factor SAT and ACT scores into their decision, even if scores are submitted.

Administrators made the move to reduce stress on families and students who are facing “fear and confusion” during the pandemic, the college said in a statement.


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Test-optional admissions do not alleviate the stress posed by SAT and ACT disruptions, Catherine McDonald Davenport, vice president for enrollment management and dean of admissions, said a statement.

Dickinson has signed the National Association of College Admission Counselors’ pledge, “Test Optional Means Test Optional,” and has embraced the Make Caring Common approach in conversations with students, parents and counselors.

“The overwhelming anxiety and fear around testing have moved to the forefront of our conversations with students, families and counselors,” Davenport said. “Essentially, by removing the test-score option, we’re removing barriers and creating access.”


UB’s coronavirus page offers complete coverage of the impacts on higher ed.