Fall College Admissions Testing Advice
Since March, we’ve experienced change at such breakneck speed that it’s been difficult to have any perspective. While change is still with us (and will be for a while!), it seems a good time to check in with what we know and what, therefore, makes sense right now. Below are updates on SAT/ACT testing, the National Merit Scholarship process, the PSAT, and college admissions. We’re covering a lot of ground here, so feel free to scroll down to what interests you!
- While the summer was rocky (at best), most local test centers are now moving forward with most test dates. We have heard most parents and students say that they are able to find a seat for the test and test date for which they are looking. We’re still keeping our fingers crossed that this continues, but we can put it under the “so far so good” category for now. It also seems clear that both the College Board and ACT, Inc. have fully embraced the idea of “pop-up” test centers in alternative locations (places other than traditional high schools), adding capacity and giving them more control over cancellations.
- Testing at-home online will not happen soon. ACT, Inc. has said that limited trials may begin in “winter", but it is clear that they are focusing (rightly so) on making sure that in-person testing continues in as smooth a manner as possible. (They have some room to grow in this area.) The College Board has put it off indefinitely.
- The Semifinalists for the class of 2021 have been announced. We joyfully congratulate the six National Merit Semifinalists with which we worked over these past couple of years. Way to go! We also have a lot of National Merit Commended students. While we know some of you, a complete list isn’t released (unfortunately). Please let us know if you’ve been selected as a Commended student; we’d love to tell you congratulations!
- The cutoffs for the class of 2021 (using the selection index on the junior year PSAT/NMSQT) are 209 for Commended (set nationally) and 219 for Semifinalist (set by state). These cutoffs are significantly lower than for previous years due to the difficulties with the test forms in last year’s PSAT. While we would ordinarily expect cutoff scores to return to their more recent levels for the class of 2022, it’s difficult to predict in this year of the Zombie Apocalypse. Once the PSAT has been administered, we’ll start to get a feel for what next year’s scores might look like.
- Most local high schools will test on the main national date of Wednesday, October 14th. There are three fall dates possible; check with your school to be sure when it’s being administered. Because of the uncertainty of school closures, the College Board has established a back-up date of Tuesday, January 26, 2021 should it become necessary for particular schools.
- Scores for the regular fall test dates will be released beginning December 7th, typically on a rolling basis across the country. Scores from the January administration (should that be necessary) will be available in mid-March.
- We wrote extensively about “test optional” a few months ago, and that advice still holds. Briefly, if your scores are additive to your application, you should send them. You can think about it like AP scores: if you’ve scored a 4 or a 5, you should send that. If you’re in the bottom quartile for that college, you can keep that to yourself. Due to uneven transcripts with uneven high school experiences and reduced opportunities for internships and extracurriculars, college admissions people can look at test scores as a known quantity that can bolster your application. One strategy: work toward getting the best score you can but don’t send your scores yet. Once you’re actually ready to apply, you can decide if your scores help your application.
- It’s unclear what will happen in future years for test score requirements. Some schools are certain that they plan to return to requiring them once that’s possible. Other schools plan to give “test optional” a longer trial. Regardless of how that shakes out over the next several years, emphasis on GPA will only increase. We can help you master your academic material and support your GPA aspirations with Academic Tutoring We can help with all levels of Math, all levels of Science (Biology, Chemistry, Physics), Social Science, and Language Arts in either a one-on-one environment or a small group setting. We’d love to talk with you to see how we can help!