Berkeley, CA — The University of California announced it will suspend standardized testing requirements until 2024, making colleges like UC Berkeley, UCLA, Santa Barbara and San Diego, test-optional schools for the next four years. In other words, students will have the option to include their test scores on their applications. The UC system plans to develop its own test by 2025. If not, the SAT and ACT will be eliminated altogether and students will be evaluated on various other factors like their GPA.
Though I'm someone who stands to benefit from standardized testing, I feel that going test-optional is a way to even the playing field for everyone. Not requiring students to submit their test scores seems like a necessary weight off of everyone’s shoulders.
I was set to take the SAT for the first time in March, but the test was canceled the day before. When I found out, instead of feeling relieved, I was worried. As someone who struggles to keep on top of my school work, I’ve always been a comfortable test-taker and I hoped my SAT scores would help me stand out as an applicant in the fall. Testing is something that lets me be competitive for colleges when my transcript or lack of AP classes could make me fall short. While I won't be able to rely so much on my test scores, I can see the benefits this new change can have for other students.
When colleges choose to go test-optional, they give students the ability to play to their strengths. Students who have skills in other areas or who may be disadvantaged by testing are not limited by their score. But this is not true for everyone. I know research shows standardized testing disproportionately benefits wealthy and white kids, often inhibiting low-income students and people of color. On top of that, testing can be expensive, especially since many decide to test more than once.
I believe that the UC system's lean towards the test-optional model is a step in the right direction, and because of its influence as an institution, other colleges could likely follow suit. But as with many things during this pandemic, the new UC plan still leaves me with a lot of questions.
Standardized testing comes with a lot of pressure to perform, but without the need for testing where does that pressure go? Without the measure of an SAT score, admissions may focus more on student GPA, number of AP classes, whether or not a student was in a leadership club or a competitive extracurricular. This new UC decision concerns me. I believe students should have every opportunity to stand out during the increasingly competitive and stressful admissions process, and to me, that includes the option of testing.
But despite these worries, I’m interested to see how this confusing time will spark change in the world of college admissions — a world that is only getting more competitive, expensive and selective. Between bribery scandals and the student debt crisis, it’s become increasingly obvious in these past few years that something needs to change. While I have some real concerns, this new UC plan feels like a positive step in the right direction.