With millions of students enrolled in Advance Placement courses, the College Board had to scramble last year to provide a test solution in May with most schools closed and students learning remotely.
Those expectations were never realistic, and the resulting exams, which were provided via a new online platform that relied on heavy-handed security and delivered unreliable performance, left many students frustrated or even unable to complete their exams. Exams were shortened and only covered a limited amount of material, and many wondered if colleges would even accept the scores (they did).
Fast forward to spring 2021 – the College Board has implemented many new changes for this year to improve the experience, but how each of your exams are administered this year will likely depend on the decisions of one person, and you will not have a say.
Since March, the college admissions test process has become a string of hits and misses for students, test providers of the ACT and SAT, and colleges trying to inject equity into a chaotic admissions process. Many seniors were ultimately unable to test or decided that the effort was not worth it. With senior testing now complete, test capacity should open up for juniors who have been unable to test so far. With that in mind, those juniors planning to test in the first half of 2021 should prepare now to ensure their test plan succeeds.
The college admissions test companies continue to struggle with providing access to testing across the country. With many members of the Class of 2021 still lacking scores and the Class of 2022 gearing up to test this fall, the pressure is on for testing to be widely and safely available.
The companies are responding to the crisis with mixed results so far, but both are promising to deliver more testing capacity this fall and winter.
With spring and early summer test dates canceled for the SAT and ACT, we continue to expect a huge demand for the next several test dates for both exams. While many colleges are offering test-optional policies for the class of 2021, we strongly advise students to provide test scores if possible. Students who need or plan to take any of these tests should register as soon as possible to ensure their seat.
If you were able to take the March 14 SAT test, count yourself lucky. The possibility of taking an in-person test in the next 6 weeks seems out of the question given the progression of safety measures enacted across the country. And if the situation does not improve, the future of the in-person college admissions testing regime is definitely in question.
This delay will build up demand for testing slots until testing can be administered safely and all students can access the tests successfully and fairly. We expect a big wave of students later in the year as current Juniors push to get second and third tests in before their applications are due in the late Fall/early winter.
So what do we know today about the future test availability and how should you plan your testing in the face of this uncertainty?
By this time next year, you will be putting the finishing touches on a year of hard work, exploration, and self-discovery unlike anything you may do again in your lifetime. Daunting, yes, but remember: it’s a marathon, not a sprint. You have been preparing for this coming year for more than a decade, and if you stay on track and follow some simple guidelines along the way, you will conquer the college admissions process in one piece and position yourself for future academic success at any number of schools.
At the highest level, your plan should include some key components for academics, testing and prep, and school research and selection. Each will be a facet of the college applications you will submit next year.
Here is our roadmap for how to break the process up into manageable chunks and which components to tackle as the year progresses.