Applications in the time of Corona: Cornell University, first Ivy to cancel SAT/ACT, but questions remain

April 29, 2020 · blog

While most domestic students of America found this extremely helpful because of growing social, income, and health insecurity in the country, contrarily, overseas students, those who start planning for the process at least a year ago opined this move as a setback to the overall weight of their application.

While Cornell has decided to accept applications without SAT or ACT scores, it made it clear that it was to tackle the situation and not a permanent decision. ''Cornell overall has not planned to adopt a test-optional admission policy permanently. As appears to be true at test-optional colleges and universities, we anticipate that many students who will have had reasonable and uninterrupted opportunities to take the ACT and/or SAT during 2020 administrations will continue to submit results, and those results will continue to demonstrate preparation for college-level work," the university said.

There are three main perspectives that one needs to remember while evaluation such moves. One, this is indeed going to be beneficial for applicants since taking these tests would be a great health hazard for many. The domestic students of America would also have to think about family income since unemployment is on the rise ever since the 2008 meltdown.

Second, as some report suggests, since the University has only made it optional and not debarred anyone from sending it many applicants would like to send it to make their application look strong. Those who have already received their scores and are happy with it would naturally want to make their CV stronger.

On the other hand, some might still want to take the exam out of the sheer anxiety of missing out on an important aspect of their application. The statement made by Cornell has left more ambivalence than it sought to clear the confusion; ''results from the ACT or SAT might still be a meaningful differentiator in particular for students who: (a) live near or attend a school that will be open, and where testing will be offered, or who live near a testing center that will be offering more testing seats or dates than they did in 2019, (b) and have not experienced lost income for one or more of their household providers or other significant new hardships and losses during 2020."

There is a third point that needs to be addressed. For many students, standardized tests work as a general benefactor, especially for those who score low on their high school grades. In India we are yet to know how the evaluation of board exams will take place, in America some high schools have changed their grading policies this year – either moved to pass or fail criteria or no final exam. Many fear that without SAT, the evaluator might want to look at the final grades more and that is a real stress.  Moreover, not other top American universities have decided to move to test-optional criteria. In that case, applicants would anyway take the test and send it to Cornell.

To conclude our point, the decision by Cornell is indeed welcoming, keeping the ongoing pandemic in mind. But there is a sense of ambivalence due to Cornell’s own decision to make it ‘optional’ and also because all other universities did not decide to follow Cornell, students might just take some extra risk!

This report compiled is by QS IGAUGE.

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