Trisha Vedula, Dublin Coffman High School junior, took the ACT multiple times and plans on submitting her score to schools, even if they are test optional. A lot of her peers, however, were waiting for the ACT school testing date,which is offered by the Ohio Department of Education but has been canceled due to COVID-19.

“I know U of M is a very, very good school. A lot of people in Ohio would be applying as it’s a really good school for them to get into,” Vedula said. “I know they’re also devastated by it because they almost feel like they wouldn’t get in — even if they meet other requirements — just because they haven’t taken the standardized test yet.”

Carly Cohen, Bloomfield Hills High School junior, was planning to retake the ACT in order to get a better score. However, with COVID-19 leading to standardized test dates being canceled, she’s not sure when, or if, she’ll get the chance. 

“It’s hard when a lot of schools around me are being test optional and Michigan’s not, and Michigan’s already a really difficult school to get into.” Cohen said.

The ACT Inc. is waiting until the week of May 26 to announce test center closures and cancellations for the June 13 test date. Even so, according to its website, all testing is still subject to change up until the day of the exam.

“It’s a lot to not know when you’re supposed to be testing because I was supposed to test in April, but it got canceled,” Cohen said. “To be preparing and putting all the hard work in and then it getting canceled is just a stressful thing because it takes a lot of hard work to get a good score on the ACT and the SAT.”

With uncertainty surrounding future test dates, many colleges, such as Harvard, Cornell and the University of California system, have made the standardized test requirements optional for 2021 applicants.

According to the undergraduate admissions website, the University still requires standardized testing for their application. In an email to the Daily, University spokesperson Kim Broekhuizen said decisions are not finalized for the 2021 application cycle, but will be widely publicized when completed.

“The ongoing developments for both the national and international landscape are guiding our decisions regarding the possible ways we might alter our admissions process,” Broekhuizen said. “We expect to finalize these decisions for the upcoming application cycle, including test score considerations, by mid-June.”

Cohen still plans to apply to Michigan, but if future test dates are also canceled, she hopes the University will reconsider making the test scores optional.

“If I (am not) able to take (the ACT) again, I feel like schools should be more lenient with testing being optional or not optional, because a lot of kids need to take it again as well,” Cohen said. 

Vedula is still planning to apply to the University, but this might change due to testing being required. With the requirement eliminating applicants who don’t have the test scores, Vedula feels she will be at a disadvantage compared to other applicants, since it will make the application process more competitive than at other schools. 

“I’ll probably push it to the backburner, which sounds kind of sad, just because now (the test) is not a priority for me, whereas it would have been if they had made it optional,” Vedula said. “I know I would have a better shot of getting in because it was optional.”

While having some schools not require test scores was stressful for some future applicants, for others, having the option to not submit their scores was a relief. West Bloomfield High School junior Jada Lee hopes that her SAT score is less of an overall factor of her application in lieu of all the uncertainty with standardized testing.

“It’s kind of like a little bit of the weight is taken off my shoulders because there is so much uncertainty about standardized testing,” Lee said. “A lot of colleges already said they’re either going test optional or not putting that much more emphasis on testing, which was kind of my weak point since I’m not a very good standardized tester.”

Lee said she is planning to apply to the University, but, like Cohen, she is planning to retake the test before sending her applications.

“I took the SAT in December, and that was a really baseline score for me,” Lee said. “So, I was really counting on the April test for my score to send to colleges … I think at this point, my score is okay enough to submit to Michigan but I would really like to get it higher.”

LSA and Education senior Kayla Chinitz is the communications director for Wolverine Tutors, which helps high schoolers prepare for standardized tests. She cited an initiative at the University of Chicago, which made testing optional in 2019, and said it led to an increase in enrollment of students from underrepresented backgrounds. Chinitz said she hopes this unusual application cycle will result in more schools making standardized testing optional in the future.

“I don’t support the wide use of standardized testing, as much as they are (used) now,” Chinitz said. “I don’t think they’re an accurate measure of college preparedness, especially because they tend to favor students from more financially affluent families.”

The SAT and ACT are both working to develop online versions of the examinations for students to take at home in the fall, in case social distancing prevents in-person testing from occurring. However, there are concerns that this will further inequities and make it easier to cheat, a concern that was brought to the forefront in last year’s admissions scandal.

With schools across the country not making a uniform decision on whether testing will be required or optional for 2021 applicants, students are left to check for updates from the schools they hope to apply to. Standardized test scores were considered a benchmark for students to see if they had a chance to get into a certain school. For students like Vedula, her list of eight to 12 colleges she’s interested in may change to due different standards of expectations for admission. 

“Whereas I knew where I stood with other colleges — like okay, this is one of my safety schools, and this is a reach school — I don’t know that anymore,” Vedula said. 

According to Vedula, having all schools, including the University of Michigan, decide to make testing optional would have been helpful for her and her peers to have more of an idea where they stand in the application process.

“The fact that they’re still requiring (standardized tests) is a little bit sad because if you haven’t taken it that’s just kind of like ‘Hey, you haven’t taken it, you’re probably not going to get in,’ where it’s no fault of our own,” Vedula said.

 

Daily Staff Reporter Iulia Dobrin can be reached at idobrin@umich.edu

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