Coronavirus, college applications, testing: FAQs for high school juniors

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Spring is normally the time of year when juniors kick their ACT, SAT, and Subject Test prep into high gear. This year, a growing number of test cancellations due to COVID-19 adds another layer of anxiety to an already busy and stressful time in juniors’ lives. But there’s a lot of good news for students who are worried about these test cancellations affecting their college application timelines.

Here are answers to some of the most common questions we’re getting from high school juniors. Have a question not answered below? Submit it to us here.

What will colleges do if I can't fit in an ACT or SAT before Early Decision deadlines?

First, it’s very likely you’ll have at least one opportunity to sit for the ACT or SAT before Early Decision deadlines. You are not alone—school closures and testing cancellations are affecting students all over the world—and the College Board and ACT are extremely motivated to give rising seniors opportunities to complete their exams ahead of application deadlines.

More good news: university admissions offices have been responding to this public health crisis with understanding and flexibility, as they have in situations of relevant magnitude in the past. Harvard became the first school to release a formal statement acknowledging how the coronavirus impacts applicants. They’re encouraging students not to worry about sitting for the ACT and SAT multiple times. With Harvard leading the way, there’s a good chance other universities will follow suit and take similarly sympathetic approaches to standardized testing.

More schools are also going test-optional. Tufts recently introduced a test-optional policy for a 3-year period. Their admissions committee plans to take a more holistic approach, evaluating students’ academic and extracurricular accomplishments without scores. The University System of Georgia, comprising 26 public colleges and universities in the state, is also not requiring the ACT/SAT for applicants who meet other admissions requirements.

For now, we recommend that ACT students register for the July ACT with September as a back-up. SAT students should register for the August SAT with the new September date and October as back-ups.

Check out this post for the latest news and advice on what to do if your ACT or SAT has been cancelled, rescheduled, or modified due to coronavirus. 

Then, check out this recent post for a more in-depth look at how college admissions policies are changing in response to the coronavirus.

What if I can’t fit in SAT Subject Tests before application deadlines?

The list of universities recommending SAT Subject Tests is already short, and schools have been responding with flexibility here, too. Harvard has announced that applicants who do not submit Subject Test scores will not be disadvantaged. MIT, the last school to have formally required Subject Tests, not only dropped them but noted that Subject Test scores won’t even be considered if students submit them.

What does this mean for you? We recommend that students who have been planning on taking Subject Tests ask their counselors if they should continue to pursue those exams. If so, August is likely your best option, since it's as close as possible to when you studied the material this past school year. However, if you don't have an official SAT score under your belt yet, you may need to use August for the general and do Subject Tests later in the fall. 

Check out this post for the latest news and advice on what to do if your SAT Subject Tests have been cancelled, rescheduled, or modified due to coronavirus. 

Then, check out this recent post for a more in-depth look at how college admissions policies are changing in response to the coronavirus.

This is stressful! How can I deal with the uncertainty and anxiety I’m feeling about these test cancellations and the upcoming admissions cycle?

Everyone is working hard to make exams and college admissions happen! This is not the first time an international crisis has affected an admissions cycle. While it is certainly of unprecedented scale, we have every reason to believe universities will work with students the same way they have in past crises.

Structure can be helpful during times of irregularity, so it’s a good idea to stick to a consistent test prep routine for now. Best case scenario: you’ll be ready to reach your goals on the June exam. Worst case scenario: you’ll continue building your skills and be in an even better position to perform your best when the next test date is announced.

In the meantime, take care of yourself as best as you can. Talk to your family and friends about how you’re feeling. Sleep, eat, and stay hydrated. Give yourself breaks to unwind, clear your head, and do something you enjoy. Be kind to yourself!

The uncertainty surrounding the ACT, SAT, and Subject Tests is challenging, and it can be tough to make plans and stay motivated when information is rapidly changing. But you’re not in it alone. Focus on one step at a time, concentrating on what you can control, and reach out for support when you need it.

Need more individualized advice?

The recommendations above are generalized plans. If you have specific questions or want a personalized plan, reach out to our experts here. We’re happy to help in any way we can.

Erin Ohsie-Frauenhofer

About Erin Ohsie-Frauenhofer

As one of the highest-performing tutors in ArborBridge’s history, Erin coaches tutors and develops tools and trainings to disrupt old habits and empower new strengths. With a Master of Arts in Teaching from Brown University, Erin worked as a classroom teacher and student services director prior to joining ArborBridge in 2017. Her decade of success as an educator has prepared her to ensure that programs are tailored to individual students’ needs.

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