Expert Admissions co-hosted a webinar entitled, “Admissions + Testing in 2021 and Beyond.” The webinar provided tips for high school students and their parents regarding the college application process and the fate of standardized testing. Here are some highlights from the conversation.
SAT/ACT Testing: Will colleges stay test-optional? When should I test? How are scores evaluated? Which test should I take? And how important are those essay sections and Subject Tests?
- Though some testing sites have had to close this year, most of our students have been able to test.
- Juniors might be worried that they won’t get an available test date: don’t panic! It’s better to wait to test until you’re ready to achieve a score at your highest potential.
- Colleges that were reluctant to go test-optional this year will likely go back to requiring the SAT or ACT in the future but not likely next year.
- Test-optional doesn’t mean you shouldn’t sit for tests and submit your scores if you can. Be strategic about where you send your scores so that they bolster an already strong application.
- Recently, a court decision mandated that the UC systemcannot consider SAT or ACT scores this year. UCLA, UC Davis, and UCSD are still fighting the decision despite the fact that one appeal has already been denied.
- Superscoring is the practice of mixing and matching different test sections across different test dates to give you the best overall score. Most schools will superscore the SAT, and there’s a push for more schools to superscore the ACT.
- Ideally, students will take full-length diagnostic tests for both the ACT and SAT at the end of 10th grade to see which format they’re most comfortable with. That gives students time to plan out which test they want to take, when they want to take it, and to find a tutor for their junior year.
- The essay section of these standardized tests is generally not an important component of a college application. Students should be prepared to take their tests with the essay section because some schools require it, but even these schools don’t give it much weight in admissions decisions.
- SAT Subject Tests have always been a very small piece of the puzzle, and now we may be seeing the last of them. Schools that have typically always required them (for example: Caltech+ MIT) are no longer requiring them.
- Standardized tests play a slightly different role in colleges outside of the US, and many of those schools have also gone test-optional.
AP Classes and Testing: Will it hurt me if I don’t take AP classes? If I take an AP class, do I have to take the exam? Should I take the exams even if I didn’t take the AP class?
- What’s most important to consider is the rigor of your academic classes. At some high schools, their most rigorous course offerings are APs, but if your high school has an alternate set of high-level courses, it won’t be held against you that they weren’t AP.
- The only reason to take an AP exam without taking the corresponding class is if you’re determined to get college credit for it.
- Even if you take an AP course, it’s not required that you take the exam, but if you’re applying to more selective colleges, they would expect to see the exam scores, and you should not submit scores below a four.
The 2020 Application Cycle: How have application trends changed? Did deferrals from last year impact admissions this cycle? How has sports recruitment changed this year?
- We’re seeing an uptick in applications this year – especially at highly selective colleges – at least in part because students with stellar transcripts but non-ideal test scores are more competitive in a test-optional year.
- Although there was some increase in deferrals from the fall, colleges have generally said that their enrollment goals will not change significantly for the high school class of 2021.
- The most important components of a strong college application haven’t changed as a result of the pandemic. For students who make the cut academically, it comes down to how well you execute the application. That’s primarily about the essay. It’s the only chance students have to speak for themselves!
- Some sports programs have been cut for 2021, so they aren’t recruiting athletes for those sports this year. However, the spots that would have been reserved for those recruited athletes were not reallocated to other sports.
General Tips and Planning for Success: What should I do about letters of recommendation and supplementary materials I might want to submit? When should I start planning for extracurricular activities in the summer?
- Should you reach out to the faculty in a specific department that interests you? This is uncommon, and unlikely to influence the decisions of admissions officers. If you reach out to a faculty member for more information on a department, be prepared to speak thoughtfully about your interests.
- Should you submit extra materials, like an artistic portfolio? If you want to submit a portfolio, make sure the work is top notch. These portfolios will likely be sent to the relevant departments for expert faculty evaluation.
- Letters of recommendation should come from 11th– or 12th-grade teachers of core academic subject areas (English, history, math, science, or foreign language). Colleges want to know the most mature intellectual version of each student; that’s also why senior year grades are the most important!
- Students should typically start planning their summer activities in late November or early December. Like everything else this year, you’ve got to be prepared for some flexibility but plan as though programs will proceed as announced so that you don’t miss an opportunity.
- If you’re an international student applying to US colleges, you’ll find that the process is very different from the process elsewhere. Admissions in the US emphasizes the fit between the student and the college. Researching the character and offerings of the different colleges is crucial to finding the best place for each student.
For more details on these topics, watch the webinar at the top of the page.