In response to the global Coronavirus pandemic, over half of American universities have decided to go test-optional, a system where students can decide whether or not they want to submit standardized test scores, in their 2020-2021 admissions cycles.
The decision to go test-optional seems to be the most rational for public safety and the liability of universities this year. Students can put their safety first because they are no longer required to go to testing centers with hundreds of other students, and going test optional allows for flexibility in this uncertain time where many testing centers could decide to close. Universities like Bridgewater College of Virginia and Berry College of Georgia, have announced they will adopt a decided to go test optional admissions policy for even longer. Bridgewater announced their decision to go test-optional for three years and Berry college has decided to do so permanently.
On the surface, test-optionality has provided some students the opportunity to stay home and stay safe by not taking standardized tests. However, there is still a considerable population of students that have decided to continue to prioritize testing in their college application process despite many colleges’ decision to go test-optional.
A solution to the issue of many students prioritizing testing over safety would be for colleges to go test-blind. Going test-blind eliminates any need for students to gather at testing centers at all. Additionally, it eliminates concerns of inequity regarding testing.
The pandemic has pushed many university administrations to prioritize the importance of health and well-being in this year’s testing process for students.
“Our primary concern is always the safety and well-being of our applicants and students, and we hope that adjusting our policies brings clarity and peace of mind to prospective applicants,” said Logan Doug Powell, Dean of Admission of Brown University, in a statement.
The Deans of Admissions from Dartmouth College, Amherst College, and many other institutions have echoed Powell’s sentiment regarding preventing the spread of the Coronavirus and maintaining the safety and well-being of high school students in their own statements announcing the decision to go test-optional.
Despite many colleges’ effort to promote the safety of students, the College Board is still administering tests. And while many test centers have closed down, some have decided to remain open. This month, around 223,400 students will still plan the SAT, as first reported by Forbes.
Not only does this process risk adding to the spread of the virus through gatherings of hundreds of students, continued administration of standardized tests also lends an unfair advantage to wealthy families who have the means to fly or take other modes of transportation to a location that will allow their children to test, which some families have already been doing.
Evidently, many students and parents don’t really believe the “optional” part of test-optional. Families are still doing all that they can to get their children to an open testing center. However, this is not just the fault of students and their families. Many college counseling firms have suggested that students take standardized tests if possible.
“If the option [to take a standardized test] is available to you at some point, we definitely recommend taking it,” a representative from InGenius Prep, a college counselling firm based in Massachusetts told the News.
The IvyCoach, a college counseling firm based in New York City, issued a similar statement in their blog. “So long as a university offers applicants an opportunity to present testing, these schools will consider the scores and students with great scores will always have an advantage over students who don’t submit scores — no matter what these schools’ press releases may explicitly say to the contrary,” read the blog post.
In addition to college counseling firms strongly suggesting that students find a way to take standardized tests, many colleges themselves have encouraged students to send in test scores that showcase their best work and could possibly help their applications. While this encouragement does not explicitly advocate for testing in unsafe circumstances, some students and their families might interpret this encouragement as a reason to take standardized tests.
Advocates of test-optionality have expressed that going test optional levels the playing field for marginalized groups such as underrepresented minorities and low-income students. While that is true, test-optionality also allows wealthy families to find ways to test, ultimately giving their children an advantage in the college admissions process. Going test-blind gets rid of these concerns. One of the colleges that decided to go test-blind is the California Institute of Technology.
“Test-optional policies aren’t worth the paper they are written on,” read an IvyCoach blog. “The California Institute of Technology . . . didn’t recently announce a testing policy that isn’t worth the paper it’s written on. Rather, Caltech recently announced a legitimate test-blind policy for the next two years.”
Going test-blind is a legitimate way of putting safety and health as a priority as well as leveling the playing field for underrepresented minorities and low-income students. Colleges should have decided to go test-blind instead of test-optional this year, and if more schools think about going test-optional through the Coronavirus, they should strongly consider going test-blind instead.