How COVID Affected the College Application System

Kate Hicks , Staff Writer

Every year, juniors and seniors across 120 countries gather in various classrooms plagued with nerves. They enter with anxiety riddled on their young faces as they brace themselves to take a test that feels as though it will determine the rest of their lives. 

The SAT and ACT have been an integral part of the teenage experience for 96 years; however, since the COVID-19 pandemic, the significance of the SAT has been called into question by colleges all across the nation. Over 1,700 colleges and universities have deemed the SAT to be unnecessary in preparing students for higher education. 

Schools such as New York University and Emory University have become “test optional” amidst the pandemic, and many schools on the West Coast have become “test optional” entirely. Furthermore, there are significant changes that are going to happen to the test in the future as the College Board has decided that the SAT will be entirely virtual starting in the fall of 2024.

Although many schools have stopped requiring the SAT, several administrators and admissions counselors continue to respect the integrity of the test. In an interview with USA Today, Christoph Guttentag, dean of admissions at Duke University, notes that the test is still an essential part of the college admissions process.

“The SAT and other similar tests are useful to us in terms of understanding a student’s academic preparation,” Guttentag says. 

While standardized tests have come under fire in recent years, criticism of the SAT is not new. 

In an article for the New York Times, writer Stephanie Saul notes, “The SAT has come under increasing criticism from those who say that standardized tests handicap poor and minority students, partly because they may not have access to expensive test preparation classes.”

While the SAT has been made optional for reasons relating to the pandemic, the new policies demonstrate some fluctuation in the application system. The changes in pandemic-related requirements on college applications show that standardized testing is not entirely necessary in determining the academic achievements of students, since college admissions officials no longer deem them crucial.