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COVID-19 & Standardized Testing

Updated: Apr 17, 2020

Standardized testing and quarantine are both stressful things to endure, but navigating both at once has made the college admissions process for many high school juniors even more complicated. Standardized testing is already a taxing part of college applications. In addition to finding time to study, students have to make decisions about which test(s) to take and when. With tests now being canceled and postponed across the country because of COVID-19, the testing situation is even more unclear. To help students understand testing for this upcoming application cycle, I have gathered updates and information from testing agencies, as well as put together lists of test-optional schools.

CollegeBoard has announced changes to both the SAT and AP exams. As many students already know, AP tests will now be a 45-minute exam taken at home. The test will only cover the material that has been taught through early March. There are free resources for self-study on the CollegeBoard site, and students can find additional free study material on Khan Academy.

The SAT is a bit of a trickier situation, with no at-home option. So far, both the May and June testing date have been canceled across the country. In response to the cancelations, they have added a September testing date for the SAT. Additionally, the anticipated dates for the rest of the year are August 29, October 3, November 7 and December 5. Students can begin registering for these dates in May. For more information, visit the CollegeBoard’s SAT update page.

For students still planning to take the SAT for college admissions, there is still time to take the test in the fall. For students planning to apply EA or ED to any schools, remember that the October test is the latest possible date to get your scores in on time. It is unclear, however, if EA and ED dates will be pushed back by some schools, but it is best to still plan for the usual November 1 or November 15 deadlines.

As of April 17, 2020, the ACT has moved its April 4 test date to June 13. Students registered for that exam were contacted to register for the June 13 date or choose a later date. It is too early to tell, but it is possible that the June 13 date may be canceled or pushed back as well. The ACT also has 3 additional testing dates in 2020: September 14, October 26, and December 14. Registration deadlines are about a month before each test, so students can wait to see when the best date may be. For ACT updates, visit the update page.

For students taking the ACT and planning to apply EA or ED to any schools, the latest date to take the exam is September 14, to ensure schools can receive scores on time.

In response to standardized test cancelations and changes, some schools are announcing that they will be test-optional (no ACT or SAT required) for students applying for fall 2021 admission. Below is a list of schools as of April 17, 2020, that have done so already (including both of my alma maters):

Tulane University

University of California (all campuses)

Tufts University

Case Western Reserve University

Williams College

Amherst College

Northeastern University

Boston University

Vassar College

Pomona College

Scripps College

Haverford College

University of Oregon

Oregon State

University of Washington

Colgate University

If you know of any additional schools that have gone test-optional for 2021, please leave me a comment at the end of the post.

Additionally, there are many schools that are already test-optional. If you are going with this route, make sure that you understand the policies at each school. Some of these schools have certain restrictions. For example, many of these schools still require testing for international students. Some schools also use test scores to allocate certain merit scholarships. Here is a list of some of the more popular schools that are already test-optional:

Bowdoin College

Smith College

University of Chicago

Wesleyan University

Bates College

Bryn Mawr College

College of the Holy Cross

Pitzer College

Wake Forest University

Mount Holyoke College

Brandeis University

Skidmore College

Trinity College

Union College

Dickinson College

Connecticut College

For the most comprehensive list of test-optional schools, visit’s list.

Deciding whether or not to submit test scores is an individual decision that I help my students make based on a number of things including the student’s strengths, their test scores (if taken) and their college list. For some students, not submitting test scores is the best option.

It is important to remember, however, that a high test score can still be a great part of your application and can help your chance of admission. It is not a waste of time to study hard for a standardized test.

As COVID-19 continues to complicate the college application process, it is encouraging to see colleges and universities respond with more flexible admissions requirements.

For more updates, tips, and resources for college admissions, sign up to follow my posts on my blog home page.

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