Seniors contend with test center closures, weigh whether to submit scores with college applications

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Seniors decide whether or not to take standardized tests and submit their scores.

Ryan Clark, Reporter

College essays, grades, recommendations and extracurriculars remain seniors’ top concerns for their college applications just as much as before amid the lonely ennui of indefinite stay-at-home orders and distance learning. Enduring increasing hours of classes by Zoom, seniors now have a new decision to make: what will they do about standardized testing?

Across the country, testing center administrators are gauging whether to cancel or resume standardized testing. Many colleges have become test-optional. Those applying to college now must decide whether visiting a test center is worth the effort and risk of contracting the coronavirus as well as whether they ought to submit their scores at all.

For Graham Waterstraat, the standardized testing process has been particularly arduous. Graham registered for testing dates in March, April, May, June and August, and his appointment was canceled each time. In one instance, the SAT was canceled just moments before it was about to be administered.

“We all got into the testing center, and right before the SAT was about to be administered, they said ‘Actually, we’re not going to administer it anymore. You all go home,’” Graham said. 

After months of unsuccessful registrations, Graham is content without an SAT score and has stopped trying to register.

Katja Edwards initially thought she would not try to take a standardized test this year, but she said her parents did not want all the time she spent studying to go to waste and believed that applicants with test scores might have an advantage. She later tested in Indiana.

Katja said that most seniors were relieved when colleges became test-optional, although many still wavered about whether they should try to test.

I can say that until I’m blue in the face, and a certain part of the population will believe it, and a certain part won’t, but we’re all on the same page as college counselors.”

— Stephan Golas

“It feels like some sort of weird mind game with the colleges,” Katja said.

Happy with her score, Katja submitted but said she believes she would have been fine without one.

Applicants should be unworried that not submitting test scores will harm their admissions chances, according to college counselor Stephan Golas.

“I can say that until I’m blue in the face, and a certain part of the population will believe it, and a certain part won’t,” Mr. Golas said, “but we’re all on the same page as college counselors.”

Mr. Golas said that his interactions with college admissions officers during the past year have reassured him that colleges recognize the extra obstacles students have faced this year and will not make the absence of test scores a factor for rejection.  

  “They really don’t care that much, and to be frank, scores were never going to make or break anybody’s applications to most selective schools in the past anyways,” he said.

Currently, U-High’s college counselors are recommending seniors not to submit their scores unless they are in the top 50% of scores from last year for the college to which they are applying. 

While some colleges have permanently become test-optional or are piloting test-optional programs, most are expected to make a decision for the Class of 2022 next year.

Mr. Golas added that juniors should care more about their grades and letters of recommendation than studying for standardized tests.

“It’s not worth the stress; it’s not worth the anxiety; it’s not worth the wasted time in prepping if you don’t have a score that you’re currently happy with,” he said. “Everybody is test-optional, so it’s OK.”