With the COVID-19 pandemic causing multiple SAT and ACT exam dates to be postponed or cancelled, Boston University announced it will allow next year’s applicants to not submit their standardized test scores in an effort to alleviate stress some high school students might be facing amid the disruptions.
The ACT announced earlier in March that its April 4 national test has been postponed to June 13, and the College Board, which administers the SAT, said its upcoming May 2 exam has been cancelled due to the rapidly evolving situation around COVID-19.
BU’s move to go test-optional is due to “extensive disruption to standardized test administrations” and “unprecedented circumstances of today’s environment,” Kelly Walter, associate vice president for enrollment and dean of admissions at BU, wrote in a statement announcing the change on the Admissions Office’s website.
“We understand that now, more than ever, high school juniors across the country and around the world will be especially impacted by this shifting landscape as you embark on your college search,” Walter wrote. “By going test optional, BU hopes to do our part to minimize the heightened stress around standardized testing that many students are experiencing as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic.”
She also wrote that the policy is a temporary, one-year change that will only affect students applying for the Fall 2021 and Spring 2022 semesters, and that the school will re-evaluate it in the Spring 2021 semester.
Applicants will still have the option to submit their standardized test scores, and international students are still required to submit the TOEFL or IELTS test as the primary means for evaluating English-language proficiency, according to the statement by Walter.
Colin Riley, BU’s spokesperson, said the move will “reduce the anxiety in a very difficult and challenging time.”
He added that the admission process will be “nearly identical” to what the school does every year, as an applicant’s high school transcript, rather than standardized test scores, remains the most important aspect BU’s admission staff will look at.
“It provides the vast majority of information to one of our professional admissions officers,” Riley said. “They’re looking at it to see the proper preparation, the appropriate courses and the academic rigor that the students have taken.”
Riley also said that BU’s admissions staff have always tried to de-emphasize standardized testing in their evaluation process.
Walter similarly wrote in her statement that BU’s decisions “have never been solely based on one single factor, such as an SAT or ACT score.”
She added that the move will allow the school to add further weight to the “important qualities and characteristics” of a student, which will focus more on his or her personal accomplishments.
Riley said such qualities include a student’s perseverance, leadership and, depending on one’s social and family situation, the ability to overcome challenges, which shows the student’s determination.
“We’re trying to look at the students in their entirety,” Riley said. “We’re looking for students who are actually contributing to their education and others in their classes through their personal experience and personal qualities, like leadership and passion for certain things.”
Lukuan Peng, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said he thinks the change will be welcomed.
“I personally know a lot of friends who I feel like are more than qualified to go to the schools that they want to go to, but they always tell me that they can’t apply to them because their scores are just too low.” Peng said. “I found that I had pretty decent SAT scores in high school, and it did not prepare me for college at all.”
Peng also said that he thinks the college essay should be taken more seriously, and an in-person interview would be “best” for screening applicants, as there are many options besides standardized testing.
“I actually think it could be a welcomed change,” Peng said. “And maybe schools will start to reevaluate how they accept people into their programs, instead of just relying on ACT or SAT scores.”