It’s safe to say that COVID-19, or coronavirus, has upended life and routines as everyone knows them. Even things that are taken for granted, like going to the grocery store or talking to friends in person, have become rare for the sake of public health. However, school continues on, albeit online. This transition to online learning has been highly publicized in the past month, and countless news stories have circulated on how students are handling the new normal for the foreseeable future. While elementary and middle school students are struggling with the hasty introduction to new learning tools, many high school students’ academic careers are being negatively impacted by the pandemic – especially the high school class of 2021.
Junior year is often regarded as the most difficult and important year of high school, since many students are juggling honors and AP classes, studying for the SAT or ACT, and participating in extracurriculars. Obviously, most, if not all, of these activities are in-person and in groups, which complicates things in a pandemic where social distancing is critical. Of course, most of these activities have also adapted to the new normal. Usual proctored in-person AP exams have been cancelled in favor of online, open-book testing and the SAT and ACT have started planning for online testing as well. Unfortunately, many popular extracurriculars have been cancelled for the rest of the academic year.
While the class of 2020 seniors only have to endure a week or two of AP testing before they graduate, current juniors will have to do both online AP and SAT/ACT testing and online extracurriculars all while applying to college. Although solutions have been found to many of the academic problems created by the pandemic, some issues still remain. The new AP test is an online, 45-minute, free-response, open-book, and open-notes test. The standard in-person AP exams take three hours or more to complete, depending on the subject. They are also proctored and have both a multiple-choice section and a free-response section. Because of the time limit on the reworked AP exams, only 1-2 questions can be on the test, depending on the subject. Additionally, almost all of the tests have had material cut from the syllabus. For example, the AP Calculus BC exam (which covers college Calculus 1 and 2) has had one whole unit cut from testable knowledge and another unit partially cut. Both of the units are regarded as the “BC” or “Calc 2” part of AP Calculus BC. Although the CollegeBoard has assured students that most colleges will accept the new AP tests for credit, many wonder if they will be prepared for college-level coursework with only 70% of the knowledge of AP courses being tested.
Juniors also have to take online SATs or ACTs if they have not already. Many juniors also take these standardized tests in the summer before their college applications start or even in the first few months of their senior year. These traditionally in-person tests take three hours and are proctored to prevent cheating. While AP exams were able to adapt to the impossible logistics of universal online proctoring services by making the tests open-book, recall, and pure information-based standardized college-entrance exams are a different story. Fortunately, the CollegeBoard has already decided on more frequent testing dates later on in the year. Still, if the pandemic continues longer than expected, online testing is the only remaining option.
Since some of the most important parts of a college application have now been reworked, university admissions for the class of 2021 will certainly be different from prior classes of seniors. Of course, no one can know for sure what will happen during the upcoming admissions cycle, but some universities have started to ease requirements. The University of California system has already dropped SAT and ACT requirements for the class of 2021, but also clearly indicated that it is not going to be a permanent change. Depending on the future coronavirus situation, more universities may follow.
<https://edsource.org/2020/uc-suspends-sat-act-requirements-for-2021-applicants/627670> – UC Change
<https://edsource.org/2020/sat-and-act-plan-at-home-college-admissions-exams-during-health-crisis/629182> – SAT/ACT