SAT Keeps Getting Canceled: What Are Your Options?

Padya Paramita

SAT Keeps Getting Canceled: What Are Your Options?

Even though COVID rates and conditions have improved in a lot of places over the past few months, social distancing policies are still the protocol in numerous locations. As a result, it might still not be an ideal time to be a rising high school senior who is yet to take the SAT. If your ACT or SAT keeps getting canceled, you might be wondering what exactly your options are in terms of submitting scores—and if you can do so at all.

Your session being postponed or canceled isn’t the end of the world. There are plenty of options, including rescheduling, finding a different location, and not submitting it at all. To help you figure out the alternatives if your ACT or SAT keeps getting canceled, I’ve outlined the different routes that you can take as you prepare for your college application.

Take a Look at the Data—And Feel Reassured!

It might seem like a lot of successful students in the last admission cycle did submit their SAT score. Especially at top schools, the data shows that generally most students did. At Duke, 44% of students did not submit any standardized test scores. 56.3% of Vanderbilt applicants voluntarily submitted test scores, and 61.1 percent of admitted students applied with test scores. At Pomona, 57% of the 748 students admitted to the class of 2025 elected to submit an ACT or SAT test score.

However, if you look at the overall Common App data, the case is different. According to Inside Higher Ed, Only 44% of those who applied to college through the Common Application in the 2020-21 cycle submitted their standardized test scores. This was a significant decline from the 2019-20 application round, and understandably so. Although this year we can expect more students to have SAT scores due to improvement in conditions and vaccination rollouts, many colleges still have test-optional policies set in order to account for the thousands of students around the world who still may not have a test near them.

Don’t Just Check in One Location

You might have an SAT test center near you—it could be your school, it could be a local community hall. And that is the place where the SAT keeps getting canceled. If you’re able to, you should definitely look beyond that location and explore your options, including in nearby towns or states given that it’s safe and okay for you to travel the distance. While scores are optional at the majority of the top colleges, it doesn’t hurt to have it, especially if you would be able to sit for the test at a nearby location. You don’t want to miss out just because you didn’t do the research!

Don’t Just Stick to the SAT

A lot of students tend to forget that colleges consider the SAT and the ACT at the same level. You don’t get any bonus points for submitting your SAT score over an ACT score. So, if your SAT keeps getting canceled, but you have the chance to take the ACT sometime, whether due to timing or circumstance, you should definitely take this shot. Keep studying for both if you have time so that you can be prepared for either test. In fact, you might even discover that you’re more comfortable with the ACT material than you were with the SAT topics. No matter what the condition is in your area, it’s always good to take both an ACT and SAT practice test to figure out which standardized test is better for you.

Focus on Your GPA

Whether it’s that you’ve never taken the SAT or that you have one below-average score for the schools you have your eyes on, remember that admissions officers know very well that your test score is the result of one day. And you could have just had a bad day. Meanwhile, your GPA is the accumulation of four years of hard work. As a result, you must always prioritize your grades in school so that your transcript shines above all.

Colleges pay special attention to the difficulty of your courses—so always check for AP classes or IB courses, select higher levels of classes depending on where your interests lie, and study hard for these exams. This is a great way to show colleges you’re passionate about your favorite subject. Even if you don’t have an SAT math score, you can prove that you’re capable of studying engineering if you have a 5 in AP Calc BC. So, don’t underestimate your classes.

Talk to Your Recommenders

If your SAT keeps getting canceled, another way of demonstrating your academic prowess. is through asking your teachers to advocate for you. Keep in mind what the school is asking for. For instance, Yale says, “Request recommendations from two teachers who have taught you in core academic subjects (e.g. English, Foreign Language, Mathematics, Science, Social Studies) who know you well, and who have seen you at your best. It is preferable, but not required, that recommendations come from teachers who have taught you during your junior or senior year of high school.” Without a doubt, you must ask teachers who know you well to be your recommenders, as the reader will be paying careful attention to how the writer has described your intellectual curiosity, collaboration and leadership skills, as well as overall impact as part of the classroom. Support from your teachers can help emphasize your academic abilities.

Use the Common App COVID Section

In order to help students explain the difficulties they faced due to the pandemic, the Common App introduced a COVID-19 question in the Additional Information section last year. If your SAT keeps getting canceled, you can explain your city’s conditions here. As you think about your response, remember that it is valuable to talk about how you’ve moved forward. If you’re a candidate who has done well even through setbacks—and taken advantage of this time by pursuing other activities or coursework—that can show how you’ve persevered during tough circumstances and made the most out of the hand you’ve been dealt. Be honest in your answer, and if you’ve done well despite the circumstances, admissions officers will certainly make note of it. 

Apply to Test-Blind Colleges

Finally, while you should definitely keep a balanced list of reach, safety, and target schools that are test-optional, you should also take a look at test blind colleges, i.e., schools which do not look at SAT or ACT scores at all when considering students for admission. So far, colleges that have declared themselves test blind are the University of California campuses (yes, this includes UC Berkeley and UCLA!), Reed College, Caltech, Catholic University, and University of San Diego. Applying to test blind schools puts you on a level playing field with other students if it turns out that you’re not able to take the SAT at all by the time your application rolls around. So, take advantage of these.

It’s undoubtedly frustrating if your SAT keeps getting canceled. However, don’t give up on applying to college this year completely. There are lots of options around you that you can consider and weigh as you navigate the application process. Things will work out at the end of the day—you got this!

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