Relief, frustration, confusion among student reactions to cancellation of SAT testing locations, California public universities’ decision to not require scores on college applications

Many+public+colleges%2C+including+California+State+University%2C+Fullerton%2C+have+decided+against+requiring+an+SAT+or+standardized+test+score+on+college+applications%2C+as+College+Board+testing+centers+have+been+closed+throughout+much+of+California+because+of+the+coronavirus+pandemic.

Kristel Laceste

Many public colleges, including California State University, Fullerton, have decided against requiring an SAT or standardized test score on college applications, as College Board testing centers have been closed throughout much of California because of the coronavirus pandemic.

Lauren Jung

With COVID-19 positive cases still being reported in much of Southern California, the College Board has yet to reopen any of its SAT or SAT subject testing locations, forcing students — especially seniors — to scramble and find out-of-state options to take these exams.

“As schools continue to navigate uncertainties due to the coronavirus, the top priorities for College Board are the health and safety of students and educators,” according to a message on the College Board’s website. “All weekend test centers must adhere to local public health guidelines and follow College Board requirements.”

The cancellation of the tests have left students feeling a wide range of emotions from relief to frustration to confusion.  Out of the 156 people who voted on The Accolade’s survey about this situation, 60% say they feel great that they don’t have to worry about studying, while nearly 20% feel livid because their parents spent money on SAT tutoring classes just for them to be useless.

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Two other recent developments regarding these traditional college admissions tests have also contributed to students’ reactions. The first one occurred soon after the COVID-19 pandemic led to school closures in mid-March, forcing many public and private universities to inform applicants that they will not require SAT or ACT scores for admissions.

The second situation stems from the Aug. 31 California court ruling barring the state’s public school system from using the SAT or ACT as an admissions requirement and for consideration in issuing scholarships. Before that, the head of the University of California system had already waved the white flag in dropping the SAT or ACT admissions requirement for the next five years, according to the Los Angeles Times.

Senior Hanna Lee, who had her March 14 and Aug. 29 SAT test dates canceled, is among several of her peers who are angry because of the amount of money their parents have spent on several years worth of private SAT tutoring. 

The College Board automatically gave full refunds to Lee, as well as to all the other students who’ve had their tests canceled, but that cannot make up for the money spent on SAT practice from academies, she said.

“It is pretty annoying because I have been practicing for this very test for three years only to get hit with an email the day before my test telling me my test is canceled over and over again,” said Lee, who estimates that her parents have spent $2,500 to send her to a tutoring academy.

Even though the new rule about applications lessened her stress about needing to obtain SAT scores in the high 1000s, the senior said she wonders how colleges will evaluate applicants now.

“I understand that it is a very confusing time for everyone, and this is a totally new experience for a lot of us, but I feel like the College Board should’ve done something to make up for this,” said Lee, who wishes to secure a spot at California State University, Fullerton “The College Board is huge [and well-known], so I’m surprised they didn’t even do anything about it.”

Although some seniors have resorted to signing up for SAT or ACT tests in Arizona or Nevada, where COVID-19 health and safety guidelines are not as strict, Lee has never entertained that option. Now that the school of her choice isn’t requiring the submission of SAT scores, she is not taking it at all.

“To be honest, because of how many times my SAT got canceled, my mom and I both agreed to give up even trying to take it anymore,” she said. “We’re pretty fed up.”

In addition, junior Eunice Shin, who had her Mathematics 2 SAT subject test rescheduled two times and her Sept. 26 SAT testing date canceled, said when she originally signed up for these exams she was relying on these scores because she had heard from her mom that she should take at least three to improve her chances of gaining admission to a University of California campus.

“I am planning on trying to attend UC schools, so if I am unable to take the test, I would be quite worried that the schools would see my application with no scores because there are some people who did take the SAT,” Shin said. “If I am compared with them, I think they would have a better chance of getting in than I would.” 

While she was only enrolled in an SAT tutoring program for eight weeks over the summer, it cost $2,000, so she feels disappointed that her time and parents’ money have been wasted. Just like Lee, the College Board automatically gave her a full refund of the $48 for the subject test and $64.50 for the SAT with an essay.

“I really wanted to get over them while all the material I studied was fresh in my mind, but because of it getting postponed and canceled over and over again, it feels like I just studied for nothing,” Shin said. “If I knew these tests were going to be pushed back this far, I think I could’ve enjoyed my time a little better.”

Senior Andrew Miller is not worried that he never took any standardized tests before.

“I was planning on taking [the SAT], but I opted out since I couldn’t get a spot because they had to restrict the size due to COVID-19,” said Miller, who applied to five in-state schools, including the University of California, Irvine, and two out-of-state public schools — Arizona State University and University of Oregon — that have made submitting the SAT optional.  “It now gives me time to write about what activities I did on college [applications].” 

To be honest, because of how many times my SAT got canceled, my mom and I both agreed to give up even trying to take it anymore. We’re pretty fed up.”

— Hanna Lee

Senior Shane Hur is in a precarious situation because the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy — the only educational institution he plans to apply to — still requires an SAT score for admissions.

“I’m [still] worried that I won’t be able to get everything done in time,” said Hur, who has had three of his testing dates canceled.

Now, over a month after his most recently canceled October exam, he decided to just include his previous score he attained as a junior; he does not plan to take the test out of state or file an appeal with the admissions office.

“The first score I submitted wasn’t what I wanted to get on the test,” Hur said. “I feel a little more worried about my application and I don’t feel as safe or worry-free because the possibility of me getting into the college I wanted to decreases without a good score.”

Because of the rising concern about his applications, he contacted the admissions office about this issue of not being able to take another SAT and his concern that his junior score could be frowned upon.

“Their response was to continue to try and take the SAT tests as it reflects on the admissions and looks better,” Hur said. “I agree that my score is not the best I could have gotten, but my score is still above average and my hope is that my grades and the extracurricular activities will be enough to get me into the school.”