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Some admissions officers and college counselors said they were unsurprised by College Board’s decision to discontinue the SAT Subject Tests and SAT with essay, but remain unsure about how the decision will impact the admissions process going forward.
College Board announced on Jan. 19 it would no longer offer the Subject Tests or the SAT’s optional essay section, citing the need to adapt to “new realities and changes to the college admissions process.” While the College Board will continue to offer the SAT, many schools — including Harvard College — recently made the decision to remove standardized testing requirements for the upcoming application cycle due to the coronavirus crisis.
“Never has it been more important for admissions officers to look at students’ achievement in context,” Zachary Goldberg, the executive director of media relations and external relations at the College Board, wrote in a statement.
“The College Board has supported flexibility in admissions during the pandemic. That flexibility must extend to all student achievements, ranging from schoolwork to extracurricular activities,” he added.
Citing the unpredictable shifts in the admissions process this past year, college consultant Parke Muth said the implications of College Board’s decision are still unclear.
“It's either arrogance or willful ignorance to say we know how things are going to unfold,” he said. “I don’t think schools have decided yet.”
Zak M. Harris, a former admissions officer at Johns Hopkins University and Bowdoin College who currently works as a college counselor at InGenius Prep, said the College Board’s choice to discontinue the SAT’s essay option “did not come much of a surprise.”
“At any of the places that I ever worked, the essay score that students got really never played a very significant factor in the decisions that were being made anyway,” Harris said.
Phil Trout — a college counselor and former president of the National Association for College Admission Counseling — said he had expected the College Board to significantly cut down or eventually “scrap” the Subject Tests, pointing to a declining number of test takers over the past 20 years.
“My concern is, will the most selective colleges choose to implement at some point an alternate testing requirement?” Trout said. “The fear is that the answer to that question will be yes. And that it will be the AP test score.”
Jon J. Boeckenstedt, vice provost of enrollment management at Oregon State University, said he expects the removal of standardized tests will motivate more students — especially low-income students – to apply to more selective institutions. He also said that the shift in emphasis to AP tests will likely compel high school students to take the corresponding advanced courses.
“I think it will also have a ripple effect through the AP program and for school districts, school administrators, and superintendents to consider adopting more AP classes, which will then trickle down into more pressure on those students to take those classes,” Boeckenstedt said. “That can be both a good and a bad thing, depending on how you look at it.”
In spite of the uncertainty surrounding the future of standardized testing, some college counselors said they remain hopeful about the admissions process.
“My hope is that for all portions of the potential applicant pool, this is going to be a win,” Trout said.
—Staff writer Vivi E. Lu can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
—Staff writer Dekyi T. Tsotsong can be reached at email@example.com.
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