Earlier this week, the College Board announced some major changes to their suite of college application tests. Whether you’re heading into high school this fall or you’re currently a junior preparing for upcoming college applications, please read this article carefully to understand the changes that will affect the future of college admissions.
SAT Subject Tests will no longer be offered
On January 19, the College Board officially announced that they would no longer offer SAT Subject Tests. Students who were tentatively registered for any of the upcoming SAT Subject Tests will “automatically have their registration cancelled and the fees refunded.” For international students, two more SAT Subject exams will be administered in May and June 2021.
The optional SAT Essay has been discontinued
The SAT Essay portion of the main SAT will also be discontinued after the June 2021 administration. After June 2021, the SAT Essay will only be available “in states where it’s required as part of SAT School Day administrations. Students scheduled to take the SAT on a school day should check with their school about whether the Essay will be included.” However, the SAT Essay has been eliminated as a college admissions tool.
What if I have already registered for the SAT Subject and/or SAT with Essay?
SAT Subject Test registrations have automatically been cancelled and refunded. Check your College Board account for more information.
If you have signed up to take the SAT with Essay before the June 2021 administration, you have the choice to cancel the Essay portion of your SAT via your online account. There will be no other cancellation charge, and the cancellation is due by the test registration deadline.
Will colleges accept SAT Subject Test and SAT Essay scores?
With all these changes, students may ask, “Will colleges consider SAT Subject Test and SAT Essay scores as part of my college application? With these cancellations, what are colleges looking for in my academic profile? Will I still be able to submit my SAT Subject Test or SAT Essay scores from tests I took before 2021?”
While most colleges and undergraduate institutions have yet to respond to College Board’s recent SAT Subject Test and SAT Essay cancellations, throughout the next few months colleges will update their websites with new information regarding application policies and admissions requirements.
In the meantime, here are a few things to consider.
College admission has always been a holistic process. SAT Subject Tests have, for the vast majority of colleges, been an optional part of the admissions process. With the exception of very few schools like Georgetown University that have required SAT Subject Tests as a part of their application, very few colleges will need to change their admission policy significantly to reflect the discontinuation of SAT Subject Tests.
If you have an SAT Subject Test score from before 2021, don’t worry! Colleges will most likely include a section for students to include past SAT Subject Test scores. When in doubt, the college application has an “additional information” section where you will be able to disclose these additional score records.
The SAT Essay has also been optional for some time, and has been even less meaningful than SAT Subject Tests when it comes to college admissions. With the exception of a few academy colleges like West Point that have required the SAT Essay in the past, colleges will now change their admissions policies to reflect the discontinuation of the SAT Essay.
As a student, what should my response to all these changes be?
In many ways, these cancellations merely reinforce what has always been important. With the exception of a few schools and Engineering majors, SAT Subject Tests have always been an optional part of the college admissions process. In the past, students would often take SAT Subject Tests around June, after taking AP exams and finishing AP courses. For many students, SAT Subject Tests served as “insurance.” Students who performed poorly on AP exams could “make up for” lower AP scores with higher SAT Subject Test scores.
However, the discontinuation of SAT Subject Tests, the inflation of high school grades as a result of distance learning, and the University of California going test-blind with regards to the SAT and ACT, all place greater attention on AP exam scores as an integral part of a college application package in order to provide valuable academic context.
If you are a sophomore or junior, think about ways to demonstrate your academic passion beyond GPA and test scores. The weakest sections of college applications tend to be students’ personal statements and descriptions of their academic passions.
Especially for top universities where most students have a very similar range of GPA, SAT, AP scores, students can stand out by writing about their extracurricular activities (e.g “What does my community look like and how have I made a difference?” and “What have been some skills and core values that I’ve developed through such activity?”). Students also stand out by showing awareness of and curiosity about relevant issues, technologies, and breakthroughs for specific industries. Instead of studying for the SAT Subject Tests, students can now spend more time researching nanotechnology or expanding their niche interest from a specific unit in their AP Biology course that piqued their curiosity. Students may learn about stock investing and open up a club at school to participate in investment competitions. Or students might learn how to put together digital portfolios and create virtual worlds using applications like Unity or Autodesk Maya.
Rather than viewing them as lost opportunities, these test discontinuations should empower you with more time and energy to pursue and develop your academic passions. Remember, colleges want to see how you proactively respond to changes and challenges of all kinds.
As always, if you have any questions or would like more information, please do not hesitate to reach out to your local Elite Prep branch. From AP test prep to extracurricular development and college consulting, we’re here to guide you and get you on track toward your dream college.