Not only has the COVID-19 pandemic altered the way students go to school and learn every day, but it has also impacted the college admissions process. In the past, an SAT/ACT score has been required in order for many students to apply to a college. However, amidst the pandemic, many colleges have announced that they are going test-optional. This means that students can submit a score if they have one, but they will not be penalized if they do not turn one in. Although this might provide some leniency for students, it is not a “free-pass” by any means. Many competitive applicants still feel obligated to take the test because a good score can still provide an advantage.
While it might be unsafe, students are still risking catching the virus in order to take the SAT or ACT. To counter this “test-optional” measure, a high-level judge has ruled that this policy is unfair for underprivileged students and those with disabilities. Brad Seligman, the Alameda County Superior Court Judge who issued the preliminary ruling in the case of Kawika Smith v. Regents of the University of California claims that privileged, non-desabled students are given an unfair advantage if they can submit scores.
What Judge Seligman is claiming holds some truth because since test centers are so limited during this pandemic, many students with disabilities or who need accommodations are unable to test. Additionally, students with lower economic statuses might not be able to travel to test centers in areas far away from them. Some students have the privilege of being able to drive or even fly to locations where the test is being offered. This creates an uneven playing field for students because some are applying to college with test scores, while others might have not gotten the opportunity to take the SAT/ACT.
The UC schools can still appeal this decision, and it seems like they are planning to. Although they earlier announced that they were trying to phase out standardized testing overtime, they do not agree with the current ruling. However, colleges eliminating the requirement for test scores in the future could be beneficial for all students. It is difficult to say that one test defines a student’s academic performance or intelligence overall. Other areas, such as essays and extra-curricular activities could be much more representative of a student’s character.