Con: Should Colleges Keep Test-Optional Policies Post-Pandemic?

Brennan Park '24, Staff Writer

During the COVID-19 pandemic, colleges and universities across the country decided to cancel mandatory SAT and ACT standardized tests for applicants. According to The Washington Post, two-thirds of American colleges and universities said they would not require test scores for those who were applying to be freshmen in 2022. However, this temporary adjustment may remain in the college application system for longer than expected. Several colleges, including Harvard, Stanford, and Columbia, have expressed their support for keeping SAT and ACT tests optional, even after the pandemic has subsided. Colleges and universities should reinstate mandatory SAT and ACT testing for applicants post-pandemic, as these tests provide validity to students applying for college, as well as offer additional opportunities, including financial aid and scholarships.

The chief purpose of SAT and ACT standardized testing is to validate students applying to a specific college. The SAT and ACT tests are designed to test students on their academic aptitude and college readiness. Without these tests, colleges are left without adequate knowledge about each applicant’s skill and potential for future academic success. Colleges are at risk of admitting applicants who may be underqualified for college, while simultaneously overlooking other applicants who are better suited. This can be harmful to high-performing students, who may be disregarded in favor of their peers. This, in turn, can be harmful to colleges, which could be denied the academic successes of these applicants. It can also harm students who were not as qualified, as they may struggle  in the classes at the college they were accepted to.

The ACT and SAT give college applicants an opportunity to prove themselves as deserving of acceptance. For students who may have little access to extracurriculars or who lack other accomplishments to include in their applications, the SAT and ACT tests provide a chance to demonstrate their capability.

Furthermore, for many underprivileged students, a high test score will greatly assist them in receiving a college scholarship or necessary financial aid. Some critics of the SAT and ACT argue that these standardized tests are not representative of a student’s academic performance. While this may be true for a small percentage of students who take these tests, the majority of students’ scores on the SAT or ACT reflect their overall academic success. In a 2015 report, ACT Inc. found a direct correlation between grades and ACT scores for 75% of students applying for colleges that year.

Therefore, while the ACT and SAT may not test students on exact college curricula, these tests accurately score students in regards to their future academic success and college preparedness. These tests allow colleges to select applicants based on merit, as well as provide opportunities for underrepresented groups within the student body.

Following the pandemic, these tests hold newfound relevance for applicants attempting to showcase their ability, especially in the absence of extracurriculars. As a result, mandatory testing policies are ultimately beneficial for universities and students alike. The ACT and SAT tests have retained their purpose and are still incredibly relevant and useful tools for colleges and college applicants alike.