The UCs are not looking at SAT scores anymore- for better or for worse?

The Scholastic Aptitude Test (SAT) and American College Testing (ACT) are some of the most important exams students will ever take. Or at least, they were.

The SAT and ACT are standardized tests students typically take during their third year of high school. For decades, students have attached their SAT and ACT scores to their college admission or scholarship application forms. However, after a 2019 lawsuit and a historic 2020 settlement during which the plaintiffs argued that the usage of SATs and ACTs put select students at an unfair disadvantage.

The plaintiffs stated that students of color, students with disabilities and students from low-income families did not have the same opportunities that the average student does. This gave students unlucky enough to be born into their circumstances unequal opportunity to take and do well on the SATs and ACTs, and therefore an unequal opportunity to get into a good college. In response, the UC Board of Regents, the governing body of the UC system, declared that no UC would be accepting SAT or ACT scores between fall 2021 and spring 2025.

Many other California colleges have followed in the UC system’s footsteps and are also not looking at SAT or ACT scores in their admission forms, moving from “test-optional” to “test-blind.”

According to Mark Rosenbaum, one of the attorneys representing the plaintiffs, it was a long time coming.

“The Regents’ stubborn insistence over generations upon usage of the SAT and ACT despite indisputable evidence that these exams only measured family wealth cost hundreds of thousands of talented students of color a fair opportunity to matriculate in their state’s system of higher education,” Rosenbaum said.

Still, this means that many high schoolers are forced to reevaluate their college plans. Without SAT or ACT scores to supplement their college applications, there is a heightened emphasis on students’ grades and extracurriculars. For low-income families, this defeats the purpose of the UCs becoming test-blind, as students may have to hire tutors to improve their school grades or pay a membership fee to enroll in extracurriculars. Furthermore, because of COVID-19, it is less plausible to utilize tutoring as an academic asset or get involved in extracurriculars in the first place.

UCs becoming test-blind also means that all the hours students spent studying for the SAT or ACT will have turned into wasted time. Aspiring UC Merced or UC Berkeley students have undoubtedly put a lot of work into getting ready for what may be the most anticipated test of their high school career. But, now that SAT and ACT scores have been rendered useless to UC applications, those students’ efforts are nullified.

Nevertheless, there are still many students signing up to take the SAT or ACT. Junior Natalia Morales is one of them.

“There are a lot of private colleges that are going to look at [SAT and ACT scores] that I am planning to apply to,” said Morales.

Stanford, one of the private colleges Morales is shooting for, is still test-optional. In this case, taking the SAT could be beneficial.

On the other hand, students like junior Jasmin Vilchis are relieved they no longer feel required to take the SAT or ACT.

“The colleges are not requiring [SAT scores] anymore. So I am just relying on my extracurriculars to fill up my college applications,” Vilchis said. “I am definitely relieved because I was going to join more extracurriculars either way, so now that I can use them in my college applications, I will definitely take advantage of it.”

Clearly, there are varying student perspectives regarding the new nature of the SATs and ACTs. There are a lot of drawbacks to the fact that so many California colleges have become test-blind, and a lot of students left floundering because of it. Still, high schoolers like Natalia Morales and Jasmin Vilchis are determined to see the bright side.


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