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Expectation Canceled

On Monday, March 16, The College Board canceled the March 28 Makeup Test, the test all the March 14 canceled test takers were counting on, as well as the May 2 SAT test date. Additionally, the April 4th ACT was canceled.

With the cancelations, tens of thousands of students’ test taking strategies for college admissions have been rendered ineffective. Now, many students who were counting on taking the test multiple times, to learn from each test experience, and improve for the next test, can’t execute their well-crafted test taking strategy before the end of the 2019-20 school year, if ever. Understandably, they are concerned about not submitting the most competitive scores possible with their fall applications, only adding to their already elevated anxiety about COVID-19, and the total disruption of almost everything in their lives.

Adding to their frustration, students often prepare months in advance in order to perform their optimal on the test day. So, with the cancelations, potentially months of preparation work have been unceremoniously tabled and will likely need, if even possible, to be repeated within a much narrower and pressure-filled time frame.

Plus, some students choose to take SAT Subject Tests in May, since they’re already preparing for AP (Advanced Placement) or IB (International Baccalaureate) tests, which are also given in May, so they don’t have to prepare for similar tests, twice. Although only MIT admissions requires SAT Subject Tests as part of an application, many students still choose to submit the optional scores to validate their aptitude and knowledge in a particular subject, and strengthen their competiveness for admissions. So, now to add insult to injury with the May SAT Subject Test cancelations, the possibility of students submitting less-than-competitive applications to already selective institutions, like MIT, increases.

Lastly, while students understand the need to protect the well-being of everyone in the short term with the cancelations, what’s at stake is students’ confidence in the value that can be obtained by attending college and inevitably completing a college degree. We cannot afford to simply dismiss students’ disappointment and frustrations about the tests being canceled, as “just get over it” or “they’re young, they’ll bounce back.”

Gen Z’ers and their parents have made a series of intricate decisions over their lifetimes, all in preparation for college admissions. They’ve believed and reified that college is their “Golden Ticket” to economic prosperity and peace of mind, while maturing in an era following 9/11 and the 2008 Great Financial Crisis (GFC) disproportionately fearful of what disruption may come next. And, now that disruption in the form of COVID-19 has arrived.

Now, Gen Z’ers are experiencing the uninvited and rude interruption of a lifetime’s worth of effort—by a novel virus that can’t be seen, and yet can not only diminish one’s health but as a side effect causes great social and economic consequences—to not only learn the concepts tested on the SAT and ACT, but also the extraordinary efforts to execute a test taking strategy, that is only one part of a larger, intricate college admissions plan. Additionally, they are fearful that they may be the first generation in almost 80 years to not realize the promises of a college degree—a lifelong peace of mind and financial stability. If College Board and ACT administrators, nor college admissions officers do not recognize the complex schism unfolding before our eyes, we risk alienating an entire generation, breaking their faith in society.

Image Courtesy of Hubbubbaloo Creative