With all the uncertainty swirling around school openings this fall, the last thing most families want to consider is SAT and ACT testing. However, the recent rash of colleges declaring test optional policies for the HS class of 2021 shouldn’t be viewed as respite from admissions testing. Most attributes of college applications–near-perfect grades, outstanding extracurriculars, poignant essays, and glowing recommendations–are also “optional” but 100% necessary for those seeking entry to competitive schools and maybe some merit aid to boot. Make no mistake: high school juniors and seniors should STRONGLY consider testing this fall.
Of course, the rash of test cancellations over the last several months may discourage even the most proactive planners. The good news amidst so much bad is that College Board and ACT have added an unprecedented number of test dates to the beginning of the 2020-21 calendar:
SAT – August 29
ACT – September 12
ACT – September 19
SAT – September 26
SAT – October 3
ACT – October 10
ACT – October 17
ACT – October 24
This extensive list doesn’t even include Sunday dates. Any student who wants to take the SAT or ACT between August and October will have multiple opportunities, assuming schools actually host the tests. And herein lies the rub. Until the test organizations take proper ownership of test administration, the public depends on the willingness and ability of public, private, and parochial schools to assume the risks and requirements of being test centers. Considering how many other community imperatives and safety concerns each school has to juggle, opening for admissions testing rarely rises to the top of the list of priorities.
That said, I’ve spoken to many dedicated counselors both here in Upstate New York and across the country that are committed to offering whatever tests they can when they can. The proper game plan for fall may involve finding as many of your area schools with staff dedicated to running the SAT and ACT as you can… and then signing up for all of them!
To be clear, a student may not register for multiple test centers for the same date. However, those seeking to register for multiple dates would be wise to diversify the risk of test center cancellation by choosing different test centers for each date. Consider different categories of school (public, private, college), counties, and perhaps even states to improve the odds of testing in the early fall. Yes, a plan like this adds more logistical complexity but makes up for the hassle in terms of lower stress about testing certainty.
Registration for September and October ACT dates opens the last week of July, and registration for August, September, and October SAT and Subject Test dates is already open. While schools are still coming on board as test centers in the fall, there is a lot to be said for locking in a test date and moving somewhere more convenient later. Don’t get shut out. Earning outstanding test scores always makes sense for admissions purposes, but you can’t ace the SAT or ACT if you can’t sit for the test!