Colleges switching to test optional admissions due to COVID


Gracie Dyer, a junior at GlenOak, faced an unusual circumstance with the ACT test this past summer. She was planning on taking the test the summer going into her junior year. However, once the COVID-19 pandemic hit, she was lost in the ACT world. 

She decided to schedule her test for July at Jackson High School. However, when she went to print out the test ticket the location changed without notification to Warren G. Harding High School, which is over an hour drive. 

“I was flabbergasted and knew that I could not manage to get up there in time to be properly ready for the test, so I decided to get a refund for my ACT test,” Dyer said. “I have since rescheduled to take the ACT Oct. 24, which due to the pandemic, will be my first time taking it.”

This is an immense disadvantage to past years when students had the opportunity to take it multiple times during high school. This is one of the many reasons why a large portion of colleges have decided to change the requirements for college admissions for the class of 2021 due to the pandemic. 

“Specifically, many universities have adopted a test optional admission policy for the 2020-2021 admissions cycle,”  school counselor Kristen Zurbuch said. “This is largely because university admissions offices feel that it would not be fair to require ACT and/or SAT scores when this year’s seniors were denied opportunities to test or retest due to COVID-19 shutdowns and cancellations.”

This test optional admission policy has made the college process complicated for seniors to make the correct decision. Many seniors have to make the difficult decision on what information they should submit to the colleges they are applying to. 

This is the area many students have relied on the guidance counselors for help to present the student in the best light possible. 

“Students are having a lot of questions about whether or not to apply test-optional, which is completely understandable,” Zurbuch said. “There are several factors to take into account when making that decision, including the student’s ACT/SAT score, GPA, strength of curriculum, academic profile of the university, etc. It is a highly individualized decision that takes some thought and strategy.”

Senior Ben Esporite is beginning the college admissions process. Fortunately, the colleges he is applying to are ACT test optional because he has only taken the ACT once due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

“I am hopeful that the test optional admission policy will allow for a less challenging and stressful application process for college,” Esporite said. 

The COVID-19 pandemic has made many colleges adjust how they evaluate students applying to their college. Admissions offices will take a much more holistic approach and rely more heavily on other factors, such as grades, curriculum, extracurricular activities, essays, and letters of recommendation. 

“I think this is a good thing – students are so much more than a test score, and this an opportunity for those attributes to shine,” Zurbuch said. 

This gives students the opportunity to illustrate their attributes rather than just a score on a piece of paper. This has made some students be able to achieve new heights that would have never been possible without this change to test optional. 

“I am glad that many colleges are test optional because it gives me the opportunity to help my chances at getting into a college with a not so great ACT score,” senior Ben Esporite said.

This test optional admissions plan levels the playing field in a way for students. Each individual student has completely different skills and attributes, this test optional format is allowing students to be evaluated on all levels. 

“I am hopeful that students who ordinarily would have been overlooked due to a lower test score, will be considered more closely and will get a favorable outcome, in the same way those with high ACT/SAT scores do,” Zurbuch said. 

Senior Zach Dimmerling applied to The University of Akron for mechanical engineering. He has decided to apply without submitting an ACT score which is possible due to The University of Akron having an ACT test optional admission policy. 

“The reason that I did not admit my ACT score is because the average that is needed is around a 26. I did not get a 26 so I chose to not send it to see if they would accept me or if I should retake the ACT,” Dimmerling said. 

Instead of taking the ACT to determine what math class he would begin in for college, in place of that they have a test to determine which math class he will be taking to start college. 

In all, the COVID-19 pandemic has impacted the college admissions process by preventing ACT tests from happening, leading to many colleges electing for a test optional admissions policy.