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UC Drops SAT/ACT (mostly)

On May 21, 2020, the University of California announced that “We are removing the ACT/SAT requirement for California students and developing a new test that more closely aligns with what we expect incoming students to know to demonstrate their preparedness for UC.”

What does this mean? Should all students skip the tests? Should my student skip the tests? What if I’m not from California?

As usual the answer is, “it depends.” The UC Announcement:

UC Test Optional Fall 2021 and 2022 Freshmen (applying Fall 2020 and 2021)

Each campus has the “option” to use ACT/SAT test scores to select students if they submit them.

This means that while students do not need to submit test scores, they will be considered for some scholarships, course placement, and eligibility for statewide admissions guarantee.

Test-blind Fall 2023 and Fall 2024

Test scores will not be considered for admissions, but could be considered for some scholarships, course placement, and eligibility for statewide admissions guarantee

New Standardized Test

UC will from summer of 2020 to January 2021 look to see if there is a “new” test that aligns with what the UC is looking for

Eliminate ACT/SAT Test Requirement: 2025

By 2025, UC plans to eliminate “any use of the ACT/SAT” for all California students. This is true even if the UC colleges have not created or found a new UC standardized test

Drops Essay for ACT or SAT

UC drops the requirement that students take the writing or essay portion for all students, in-state, out-of-state, and international. The essay scores will not be used at all starting from fall admissions of 2021 on.

Should students still take the ACT/SAT for UC admissions?

Yes, IF:

The student is a strong test taker (see note)

The student is an out-of-state or international student

These changes are focused on in-state or California students applying to the UC system. Out-of-state and international students are treated differently.

(Note, a “strong” ACT/SAT score varies by campus from 23-34 ACT, 1130-1330 SAT. For PSAT the top 25% score 1070-1200, and top 10% score 1210-1520 the top possible score)

Why the change?

There is mounting evidence that students who can afford to take advantage of extensive test preparation routinely do “better” than students who do not. This creates an affordability gap among prospective UC students. There is also evidence of racial and socio-economic factors impacting test scores. The UC have been discussing these changes officially for at least two years.

Added to that is the incredible impact of the Covid-19 pandemic which has caused tests to be postponed, switched to unproven digital platforms, and cancelled.

An increasing number of colleges are dropping or making test submission optional for students applying to college. This is happening because research tends to show that academic performance in high school is a better predictor of freshman year college success than the standardized tests.

What to Do?

Take a breath.

If you are currently a junior/rising senior anxiously staring at college applications in the fall, take a look at the schools you are thinking about applying to. Do they require standardized test scores, or have they gone test-optional? Check the college website under “admissions” and look for “requirements.”

Next, take a look at your PSAT score. If you scored in the top 25% with a score of 1070 and above, or feel very confident about taking standardized tests, AND you have completed Algebra II, AND you can register to take the tests in the late summer or fall there is no harm in taking them. Good scores may help with scholarships and might be considered in admissions decisions at some schools.

If you are not a strong standardized test taker or if fall testing is disrupted by Covid-19, then focus on other things and don’t worry about taking the ACT/SAT.

If you are a sophomore/rising junior or a freshman, sit back and watch what is happening in college admissions. (Keep an eye on this blog.)

Remember, take a breath. Wash your hands, hug your dog, pet your cat, stare at your fish, and be nice to your family. We will all get through this and the vast majority of colleges understand what you are going through.

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