18 MAY 2021
Standardized testing has been a hotly debated topic in the US university admissions sphere for the last year. After COVID-19 restrictions limited access to standardized testing for students all over the world in 2020, hundreds of US colleges adopted test-optional admissions policies to ease the burden on already-stressed students.
Even the most elite institutions in the country, which are often known for their admits’ sky-high grades and test scores, dropped SAT and ACT requirements for applicants to the Class of 2025 — and in the absence of significant improvements in COVID-19 circumstances earlier this year, a long list of US colleges have extended those policies for at least one more year.
Having been the first major higher education entity to implement a test-optional policy last year, it’s fitting that the University of California system — which includes UCLA, UC Berkeley, UC Davis and seven more schools — has historically announced it will be going test-blind for at least the next four years.
In order to settle a lawsuit brought against the UC system in 2019 by a group of low-income students of color and students with disabilities, the University of California has agreed to eliminate the consideration of SAT and ACT scores (even if students submit them) from the application evaluation process for students applying for entry between fall 2021 and spring 2025.
The students argued that their limited access to test prep services or the travel sometimes required to sit the test at an official testing center put them at a marked disadvantage against other students in the applicant pool.
There has been chatter about the longevity of standardized tests in the university admissions process for several months as the number of schools implementing long-term or indefinite test-optional policies steadily increases. However, between comments from the CEO of ACT about test data being “too useful to abandon” alongside statements from top US unis expressing that they do not plan to adopt permanent test-optional policies, it has seemed unlikely that the SAT or ACT will be entirely eliminated from the application process anytime soon.
Nonetheless, the University of California’s move to disregard test scores in the next four admissions cycles has stressed the importance of a student’s school grades and additional academic pursuits as a measure of their scholastic aptitude.
With test-optional policies driving application numbers up and making the admissions landscape even more competitive, it’s now more important than ever for students to seek out other opportunities to showcase their basic mathematics and reading/writing abilities — as well as their competency in additional subjects of interest.
Early this year, the College Board announced it would be phasing out the SAT’s optional Essay and Subject Tests globally, eliminating them entirely by the end of the summer. The company’s CEO pointed to Advanced Placement (AP) exams as an appropriate alternative to the Subject Tests, noting “AP provides a much richer and more flexible way for students to distinguish themselves.” With access to AP and IB curriculums expanding in schools and now widely available through select online outlets, such as Crimson Global Academy, students can still showcase their academic abilities even without submitting standardized test scores.
However, test scores aside — it’s crucial to remember that US universities tout a holistic admissions process in which each student is evaluated based on every aspect of their application. This means where test scores are absent, many other qualifying factors are still present — so writing compelling essays and cultivating meaningful extracurriculars can make a world of difference for applicants.
At Crimson Education, we take pride in helping hundreds of students submit stand-out college applications each year, and our students’ admit rates illustrate our dedication to their success. Even in the face of record-low acceptance rates for the Class of 2025, our students’ well-rounded applications, complete with memorable essays and authentic extracurriculars, are getting them accepted. In fact, despite an anticipated acceptance rate of around 13% for UC Berkeley’s Class of 2025, half of all Crimson students who applied to the most selective University of California campus got in!
To learn more about how we help students around the world submit their best possible college applications, visit our admissions support page at the link below.