Even in the midst of a pandemic, the stress of standardized testing remains a reality for UF applicants.
Colleges and universities across the country are relinquishing testing requirements for 2020 due to obstacles posed by COVID-19. More than two dozen schools have made testing optional for 2021 enrollment as well, according to the New York Times.
UF has done neither.
Admissions requirements for Florida’s public state colleges and universities are made by the Board of Governors, said Charles Murphy, director of freshman and international admissions at UF. The Board has not yet made plans to waive the state’s SAT/ACT test requirement for the foreseeable future.
According to Murphy, Florida’s university system is worried that removing the testing requirement for incoming freshmen would discourage students from taking the tests altogether. This could result in some students being ineligible for scholarships, Murphy said.
Some students disagree, like 18-year-old Gainesville High School graduate Hollen Parsons. Limited test availability due to COVID-19 prevented her from obtaining her desired scholarship, she said.
Parsons currently qualifies for the Bright Futures Florida Medallion Scholars award, a scholarship which covers 75 percent of tuition and fees. Her canceled test date on the 13th was her last chance to become eligible for the Bright Futures Florida Academic Scholars award, which covers 100 percent of tuition and fees.
That’s a huge difference in terms of financial security and the stress surrounding it, Parsons said.
“This has been definitely maddening and frustrating for me and my family,” Parsons said. “Without the Florida Academic Scholars award, we've got to look into different types of student loans.”
She has tried to reach out to ACT Inc. through emails and phone calls, but has been met with no answer.
According to a survey from the National Endowment for Financial Education, nine in 10 Americans state the pandemic is causing them financial stress. The college admissions process alone can be expensive, even for students like Parsons who can pay for multiple test dates, test tutors and more than one college application fee.
The presence of these admissions tests provide particular challenges for those with financial barriers. Students who cannot afford the same preparation materials will oftentimes receive lower scores as a consequence.
The nonprofits responsible for the SAT and ACT, College Board and ACT Inc., have grown college testing alone into a billion dollar industry.
Some students think that no longer requiring these standardized tests could be helpful even when there isn’t a global pandemic.
Zoe Brand, a 19-year-old UF advertising freshman, said she still believes standardized admissions testing may bring about more harm than good. The emphasis placed on these standardized tests causes needless stress, Brand said.
“They shove them down your throat––you're constantly taking whatever the state has prepared for you,” she said. “They kind of feel like a little bit of a waste of time.”
Brand said that juggling a challenging full-time course load with rigorous exam preparation was difficult. Still, she said she felt as though she had no other choice if she wanted to appeal to colleges.
“I think it's a really cool idea that universities could be shifting their criteria away from standard testing,” she said. “There's a much bigger picture beyond just a statistic and a number. It's pretty clear that all students learn differently.”