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The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

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The Student News Site of University of Chicago Laboratory High School

U-High Midway

Through classes, art teachers aim to grow art appreciation

Optional standardized testing presents flexibility in college admissions process

High+school+students+face+an+evolving+landscape+in+the+college+admissions+process+after+colleges+and+universities+introduced+test-optional+admission+policies+during+the+COVID-19+pandemic.
Henry Benton
High school students face an evolving landscape in the college admissions process after colleges and universities introduced test-optional admission policies during the COVID-19 pandemic.

This story has been revised to clarify that test-optional admission policies existed before the COVID-19 pandemic. Edit made Nov. 28 at 1:22 p.m.

Update: In the in print version of this story, the photo was incorrectly credited to Ellis Calleri. The photo was taken by Henry Benton.

In 2020, as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic and restrictions on continuing in-person testing, colleges and universities expanded test-optional admission policies. Most of these institutions extended the option up to the 2024 admissions cycle or longer, with many making the option permanent. A short list of colleges still require test scores.

High school students face an evolving landscape in the college admissions process as testing requirements and norms change, eliminating testing pressure for some. 

College counselor Abigail Wagner said the pandemic gave colleges and universities an opportunity to see if they could evaluate applicants on other factors aside from their test score. 

“Many colleges found that they could see if an applicant was ready for the environment based on just using grades and things like community service,” she said. “So maybe you’re not a great test taker, then it gives you the chance to still showcase your other assets.”

For current seniors, Ms. Wagner said she will consider whether it is advantageous for a student to submit their test score, typically whether the score falls within the mid-50% range of what the college typically accepts.

She said, “If the student has a test score that is below what the college typically admits, it wouldn’t make sense for the student to submit the score because we don’t want to submit something that would drawback from the quality of that student’s application.”

Standardized testing is evolving in other ways, too. Starting in March 2024, the SAT will be digital

Despite this change, Ms. Wagner said her guidance remains the same for students who decide to test. She encourages students to take the PSAT and a practice ACT to determine which one is better suited for them. 

She said, “Whichever of these tests allows them to demonstrate their knowledge, a student should choose that test to go forward in preparing to take whether that’s preparation on their own or through a tutor, they should plan to take it at least once maybe twice.”

Max Mathias, a senior who took the SAT, said he was satisfied with his score and plans to submit it to every college he applies to. He said overall, test-optional admissions are good because students do not have to spend expensive resources to obtain a certain score.  

“It still lets students who see it as a plus contribute to their application,” he said. “It can let students who are not strong test-takers emphasize other parts of their application.”

Max said he spent more time on it because one of the more selective colleges he plans to apply to requires a test score. 

“I felt I needed a really strong math score because the school has a big emphasis on math,” he said. “I thought that my score was good enough to demonstrate my aptitude, and it was well within the average of the school.”

Junior Nutan Ganigara, who will apply to colleges next year, also took the SAT. Nutan said she plans to retake it once because she worries colleges still value standardized testing.  

Nutan said, “I fear a college will value a student with a score over another who chooses not to submit, so I want to get a good score.”

Ms. Wagner said she advises students not to compare applications to other students and to make the decision to submit a test score based on a student’s personal strengths and readiness. 

“Consider what your best interests are,” she said. “Don’t spend a ton of money and emotional resources to test if it doesn’t feel like a strength of yours because there are plenty of other things you can grow and focus on aside from testing.”

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About the Contributors
Audrey Park, Editor-in-Chief
Audrey Park is a member of the Class of 2024 and serves as an editor-in-chief. She began writing for the Midway in the 2020-21 school year when she was in ninth grade. Her favorite story she has written is about University of Chicago nurses seeking solutions for the uninsured. She loves journalism because of its ability to represent and reflect multiple perspectives. Audrey also enjoys reading, traveling and playing card games. Awards: 2023 Journalism Education Association National Student Media Contests, San Francisco convention: Honorable mention, online package 2023 Scholastic Press Association of Chicago, news story: excellent 2022 Journalism Education Association National Student Media Contests, St. Louis convention: Honorable mention, editorial writing 2022 Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Circle Award: First place, sidebar writing, “Misinformation solutions rely on regulation, media literacy”
Henry Benton, Photographer
Henry Benton is an editor and a member of the Class of 2025. His favorite part of photojournalism is being with a team. The most fulfilling part of PhotoJ is seeing your photos in the paper. Outside of photojournalism Henry enjoys boxing, music and video games. Awards: 2022 Columbia Scholastic Press Association Gold Circle Award: Photo slideshow, certificate of merit (with Andrew Burke-Stevenson, Malcolm Taylor, Matt Petres, Chloe Ma and Patrice Graham), “Photo gallery: Faculty face off in Homecoming arm wrestling tournament”

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    Sharon WilliamsNov 28, 2023 at 10:20 am

    Please note that test-optional practices were NOT introduced as a result of the pandemic. They were expanded. A considerable number of colleges, many selective, have been test-optional for several years.

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