Students struggle to navigate college application process during Covid-19 lockdown

Elimination of SAT/ACT test places more emphasis on essays, grades

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Photo by Micaela Lopez

Canceled: Multiple SAT events were canceled due to Covid.

Gavin Orsi, Opinion Editor

When it comes to college admissions, the class of 2021 can’t seem to catch a break.  With SAT test centers closing left and right, seniors aren’t sure where to start when it comes to the college application process.  Meanwhile, colleges have been forced to revise their application requirements due to the lack of SAT availability, sparking a debate on whether or not the SAT should retain its status as a significant factor in the acceptance process. 

“I think colleges should make scores optional, not removed completely,” senior Luke Fry said.  “Students who took the test should be able to have colleges look at their scores, and students who couldn’t take the test should not be harmed by colleges’ acceptance of said scores.”

According to the University of California, SAT and ACT requirements have been eliminated for the classes of 2021-2023.  Therefore, students who have taken the test can submit their scores for consideration, but those who do not submit a score will not be penalized.

Pretty much everything will be the same except the SATs and the ACTs,” UC Davis admissions advisor Lizeth Santiago said.  “Besides grades, we look at the type of things that you did even outside of academics. We also look at essays.”  

Students who had stellar test scores in hand breathed a sigh of relief that their scores would still count.

“I think it’s good that colleges still accept test scores; it’s unfair for students who worked hard to get their scores,” said senior Sidney Banks, who earned a 1530 on the SAT and a 35 on the ACT.  “It’s also unfair for students who literally could not take their scheduled tests because of Covid, so it shouldn’t be counted against them.”

Although UCs have decided to still accept SAT scores, CSUs have completely suspended SAT/ACT examinations for the 2021-22 school year.  Without the SAT or ACT, CSU’s must rely solely on a student’s GPA and extracurriculars for admissions.

Illustration by Truong-Anh Nguyen-Tan

“This year, because we’re not using SAT or ACT scores, the school is using a system where they take your GPA in your A-G courses during your tenth and eleventh grade years and multiply them by 800 to get an admission score,” Fresno State admissions officer Brendia Shaw said. “Additionally, local area students will gain an extra 100 points on their admission score.” While this boost isn’t huge, it’s enough to give local students an edge over other students with the same GPA.

Instead of placing emphasis on test scores, the all-important personal essay will now play an even bigger role in the admissions process. It will be crucial for students to not only write a strong essay, but to also dig deep into how they’ve spent their time during lockdown. Instead of relying on a solid test score, applicants must be ready to detail both their Covid experiences and how they maximized  their time. According to “The Wall Street Journal” article “What’s In and What’s Out in College Admissions,” this fact “may be just as daunting for would-be college freshmen.” 

“This wasn’t something you could study for or plan for, but it offers a great opportunity for students to show us what they were able to do when they just had to figure out how to make it work,” said Catherine Davenport in the article. Davenport is the Dean of Admissions at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.

While it may not be a deal breaker if students spent their lockdown playing video games, watching movies, or sleeping, those who were not as productive with their time may find that they are at a disadvantage compared to those who started online businesses, found unique ways to assist people in their community or applied for distance dual-enrollment at their local community college.

Because many extracurricular activities, including sports, have been impacted by the pandemic, students who normally could rely on those accolades must also find other ways to showcase their desirable qualities. Most admissions officials agree: transcripts, grades and teacher recommendations are now more important than ever.

Contributors: Amara Del Prato (Co-Editor-In-Chief) and Vanessa Langland (Staff Writer).