Colleges implement test-optional policies in light of pandemic

Rilee Malloy | Staff Writer

Amidst ACT cancellations, many colleges are following in each other’s footsteps and becoming test-optional.

While schools such as The Ohio State University have become test-optional for only one application cycle, others have different ways of adapting to limited ACT resources. Colleges such as Ohio University and The College of Wooster have decided they will no longer require ACT or SAT scores, permanently.

Guidance Counselor Tony Affatato said that although many schools are moving to become permanently test-optional, Mason High School will continue to offer the test to students in February.

“Across the country, [people] have been concerned that students don’t have access to take [the ACT] because of the cost factor,” Affatato said. “Our plan will always be to give students access to the ACT because it is important that they have the opportunity to take it.”

While high schools plan to offer the ACT, social distancing guidelines made it hard for many students to find open test centers, due to the fact that seats are limited and fill up quickly. Senior Jack Petrocelli was unable to take additional ACT’s or get access to a tutor, which made it difficult for him to better his score.

“I had to [prepare] on my own,” Petrocelli said. “I was disappointed because I knew I could get a better score [with help]. I wanted to get a better score [for scholarships] but at the same time I got a good enough score [for admissions].”

Senior Ella Monroe was tutored before she took the ACT. Monroe spent six hours a week tutoring beginning the summer before her junior year. Since colleges are now becoming test-optional, Monroe said she feels like she won’t reap the benefits of the energy she put into the ACT.

“Because of the money we put into it, it was something we were hoping to get back in scholarships with my score going up,” Monroe said. “If I knew schools were going to become test-optional before I did tutoring then I wouldn’t [have done] it.”

While many schools have abandoned test score requirements for admissions, others still require a test score to be considered for scholarships. Choosing to not submit test scores will not hurt in the admissions portion of the application, but a student may not get as many opportunities for financial aid.

“You have a two-pronged thing happening, you have admissions and you have financial aid which might hinge on that score,” Affatato said. “Schools are going to say that you don’t have to submit the test score for admissions, but you might have to [give] a test score for their scholarship pool. They still have a tiered system and you might have to have the score to get that scholarship that might be merit-based.”

Students may lose out on the opportunity for scholarships because they were unable to find an open test center or get a spot at one. Monroe was able to reach her goal score, but there are many students who were unable to do so. Students may have been unable to improve their ACT score for a variety of reasons and Monroe said just because they don’t submit a score doesn’t mean they don’t deserve financial aid.

“Colleges base scholarships on a set score range,” Monroe said. “Since it is now optional to submit your score, it’s not really fair to still evaluate solely on ACT since that is no longer applicable to everyone. Just because someone doesn’t submit their score doesn’t mean they don’t deserve a scholarship.”

Affatato said that he doesn’t want students to worry about the ACT portion of their application. Instead, he said to focus on pieces of their application that are within their jurisdiction, like their essays. Admissions offices may focus more on essays and other aspects of students’ applications as they are becoming more sympathetic to the upcoming graduating classes when it comes to ACT requirements.

“The test-optional could help students take the weight off their shoulders,” Affatato said. “Schools realize it had an impact on [seniors] that was beyond their control. It will help students because it focuses on the things that [they] can control.”