It is frustrating and scary to be in the unknown, and millions of high school scholar athletes are facing the uncertainties that lie ahead, especially when it comes to college applications and recruitment. The National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) has strict eligibility requirements for athletes who wish to compete at Division I and II schools, that include a minimum standardized test score from either the SAT or ACT. As a result of COVID-19, neither of these tests are currently being administered. This means some high school seniors may have missed their last chance to raise their scores for admissions this summer and juniors who want to apply to colleges early will have fewer opportunities to take the tests. Unlike the non-athlete student, who only has to meet college board requirements for applications, student athletes must meet those requirements in addition to those of the NCAA.
Caught between a rock and a hard place, last week, the NCAA released a statement saying current high school seniors, class of 2019-2020, are eligible to play college sports without providing SAT/ACT scores. I’m sure seniors on their third or fourth attempts to raise their SAT scores to become eligible athletes are sighing in relief. However, there is significant uncertainty among the current high school juniors who have not received such exemption from the NCAA. For the time being, the College Board is planning to continue testing when schools reopen in the fall. In the unlikely event that schools are unable to open, a digital form of the SAT will be available for students to complete at home. Many universities are pushing back application deadlines, giving students more time to take the tests and submit their scores, while some colleges and universities are changing their requirements all together.
There has been a “test optional” movement in the past few years, and some universities are using this time to experiment keeping this model for the long term. Without test scores, admissions officers would have to take a more holistic approach to evaluating a student’s fit at their school. There would be an even greater emphasis on extracurricular activities, and sports would contribute to creating a profile that stands out along with solid grades, leadership, and community service. Students would not be dismissed from consideration for admission based on one test score, but would be evaluated on their ability to create a strong academic profile that is interesting to admissions officers. Students would have to be creative to make themselves seen, as well as learn life skills that contribute to an increasingly important college interview process. By going test optional, more students would have the opportunity to stand out as individuals rather than be normed by a standardized testing system, and schools all over would be more ethnically and intellectually diverse.
As for the future of testing, we can only wait and see. The NCAA says that they will continue to adjust and make decisions based on research, fairness, and equity among students. So, take a deep breath, and know everyone is feeling the same uneasiness. There’s even data that suggests there is an increasing number of students who are re-thinking attending college next year, or even at all. This means that there is more individual attention being given to students than ever. Things are changing but one thing remains the same: college admissions boards and coaches are here to help you. They will be flexible and understanding as everyone makes their way down this unpaved path. After all, we’re all in this together!