How COVID-19 Disrupts the College Search – Part 2

Published by Wendy Nelson on

How COVID-19 disrupts the college search for the high school class of 2021 is only partially understood at this point. There is a lot of speculation, based on what is happening with college admissions for high school Seniors in the class of 2020.

Last week, I started this series of posts based on a Facebook Live presentation, Adapting the College Search, I did in my Upside Down College Search group. (If you join the group, you can watch the recording.)

I addressed a number of “things that are keeping you up at night” when it comes to the college search process for your class of 2021 student. Last week I addressed things that keep you up at night #1 – This year’s Seniors are going to defer admissions and steal competitive spots from the Class of 2021. You can read last week’s post here: How COVID-19 Disrupts the College Search.


Now I am going to address Things That Keep You Up At Night #2 – There won’t be as many chances to take ACT and/or SAT tests before college applications are due.

Spring tests were cancelled. Many class of 2021 students are worried that they will not have enough opportunities for ACT and/or SAT tests this Summer and Fall.

ACT Tests

The June 13, 2020 ACT test is still scheduled, but many test centers have cancelled. If your student is registered, they have received communication about their scheduled test center. The ACT organization has also made clear that anything is subject to change before the test date.

The next scheduled ACT date is July 18, 2020 and then as of the September 2020 test date, online testing is supposed to start, with additional positive changes. Read the specifics here:

SAT Tests

Priority registration opened up at the end of May for the Summer and Fall test dates: 8/29, 9/26, 10/3, 11/7, 12/5. Registrations are already filling up although the College Board has promised additional in-person testing capacity to account for the social distancing that will be needed at the testing sites.

As of June, the College Board has also stated they will not be working towards an at-home version of the SAT for this Fall.

You can stay up to date on plans for the SAT here: SAT and PSAT-Related Coronavirus Updates


Tips to Calm Your Worries About ACT and SAT Tests

  1. Know whether the schools your student wants to apply to will be test-optional this Fall – More and more colleges are announcing that they will go test-optional for 2021 admissions. Check the Admissions pages for the schools your student intends to apply to. You can also stay up to date on what schools are test-optional here:
  2. Test Prep – Summer is a great time for ACT and SAT test prep. There are tons of helpful resources online as well as hard-copy study guides you can buy inexpensively from Amazon or other booksellers. For free SAT test prep, Khan Academy is a great option. For free ACT test prep, try ACT Academy, available through There are also many sites that offer paid test prep programs that they guarantee will increase your student’s score. PrepScholar is one of these sites – if your student’s SAT score does not increase by 160 points or more after following their program, you get your money back.
  3. Register Early – Now is the time to register for any of the Fall SAT test dates. For ACT tests, your student can still register for the July 18, 2020 test and you can sign up on to get updates regarding the September and later test dates.
  4. Proceed Like “Normal” – Plan for your student to take the ACT and/or SAT test if they were going to do it before COVID-19 hit. Get them registered. Watch for communications as the test dates get closer. Have them do a lot of test prep this Summer. If the tests get cancelled, don’t sweat it. Even if the schools your student is interested in go test-optional, that means they will use tests as part of the admissions evaluation from those who have them and will evaluate admissions without tests from those who couldn’t take them or don’t want to submit scores. If you are looking for good merit aid from the colleges, know that most schools use ACT and SAT test scores as part of the equation for awarding merit aid. However, they will still find a method to award merit aid to top students who don’t submit test scores if they are going test-optional for 2021 admissions.

To summarize, the fear that there won’t be as many chances to take the ACT test or SAT test before 2021 admissions applications are due is definitely valid, but plans are in place to work around this. Many schools are announcing test-optional admissions for Fall 2021. ACT and SAT test organizations are closely monitoring the situation, adding test dates as needed and taking other measures. Also, if your class of 2021 student will only get one shot to take the test this Fall before applying to colleges, that should be motivation to do extensive test preparation. Take advantage of free online resources and have them do lots of practice tests.

Next week, we will focus on your fears around limited opportunities for “application boosters” – extracurricular activities, sports, service opportunities, and other unique experiences.