【明報專訊】It's hard to get into your dream university. Thanks to COVID, it just got harder. About 1,700 schools in the US have made standardised tests like the SAT and the ACT optional this year due to COVID. This means that students are no longer discouraged from applying to good colleges due to their low test scores. It has also made applications easier for international students, who need to pay more for standardised tests and probably prepare for them alongside their other important public examinations. This translates into a huge spike in applications at top colleges. Cornell University received 17,000 more applications than it has ever received before. Harvard saw a 42% jump and Colgate University in Upstate New York received double the number of applications. Consequently, the acceptance rates at these colleges are at a new low, with some at 3%. In addition, the change in test policy seems to have been beneficial for diversity. More Black, Hispanic, low-income, or first-generation students (the first person in their family to attend university) applied than ever before. One possible explanation for this is that standardised tests tend to favour richer students who can afford tutors and test preparation, so making them optional gives students from marginalised backgrounds a better chance.
At the same time, smaller or less recognisable institutions saw a drop in applications. This is disastrous for their finances. Without enough income from tuition and student accommodation, coupled with the general struggles of the pandemic, these colleges might have to cut down on their programmes or fire teaching staff. Some have already closed due to financial hardships. Moreover, even though the tests are now optional, some students (usually wealthier students) are still submitting their test scores to improve their chances of getting in, so the playing field (競爭環境) is still not quite level (公平的).
For some colleges, test optionality is here to stay. For others, standardised tests will continue to be an integral part of the admission process.
Alice is a freshman at Cornell University intending to major in Economics and Computer Science, having previously studied in the UK for six years. A lover of languages, she studies French, Italian, Japanese and picks up bits of other languages when she can.