College Admissions Strategy: UC phasing out the SAT and ACT - Upward Path Institute

College Admissions Strategy: UC phasing out the SAT and ACT

Posted by: fyclabs on 06/11/2020

The University of California is phasing out the SAT and ACT. What does this mean for your college admissions strategy?

We are living in unprecedented times. Between the pandemic and civil unrest, and all the second-order effects of major events, where does that leave students seeking admission to a high-quality university?

The University of California recently decided to phase out the SAT over the next five years and eventually transition to a new form of assessment testing. Some other prestigious universities across America are moving towards “test-optional” admissions.

What are the implications of these events and what is your optimum response?

Let’s consider why these moves are being made. Years before the pandemic, there has already been a national discussion about the role and implications of SAT/ACT requirements for college admissions. Some have argued that they are standardized and, therefore, reduce bias in college admissions. Others have argued that they exacerbate inequities in the education system by favoring families who can afford test-prep services. Even before the pandemic, the latter group – regardless of the truth of their argument – had been gradually winning the debate, and, thus, political pressure was pushing the move away from the SAT/ACT.

Amidst that backdrop, the pandemic created significant logistical difficulties in proctoring, administering and preparing for the SAT/ACT, along with educational disruptions in the lives of many high school students, which would likely create ripple effects in how they performed on the test.

In summary, there are three major reasons driving the current shift away from SAT/ACT in college admissions:

  • Political pressure to move away from SAT/ACT
  • Logistical difficulties in test administration
  • Because of this year’s educational disruptions, the SAT/ACT has a much poorer signal-to-noise ratio than normal

Now that this is happening, what are the implications?

This definitely does not mean that students should not take the SAT/ACT if they are able to. The test may be optional, but that doesn’t mean it won’t be taken into consideration if submitted. A good test score will still improve your chances of admission, and most certainly can’t hurt. It is simply no longer a requirement for some schools.

How will admissions be decided now, with a test-optional format?

Let’s compare the model from before this change, versus how the model looks going forward. Take a sum total of the factors behind an admissions decision and conceptualize it as your “Admissions Score” – the higher your Admissions Score, the higher your chances of admission.

Perhaps in the past, your admissions score was created like this – similar to how a high school course might have a grading rubric weighing a student’s performance across various categories:

  • 30% SAT/ACT score
  • 50% GPA and academic record
  • 10% essay and application questions
  • 10% extracurriculars

When you remove the SAT/ACT element and fill in the missing 30% by proportionally increasing the other factors, it might look something like this:

  • 71.4% (50 + 21.4) GPA and academic record
  • 14.3% (10 + 4.3 essay and application questions
  • 14.3% (10 + 4.3) extracurriculars

It would be quite an adjustment to adjust your entire college admissions preparation strategy and work plan to accommodate the new formula, especially if you’ve already invested time to study for the SAT and ACT. That being said, it still makes sense for most students to take the SAT/ACT, especially if you were already planning to before the pandemic. If you submit a good score, it will still help your application.

For those who decide not to take the SAT/ACT, their admissions score will draw more heavily from the remaining three factors. Because of this, more emphasis should be placed on improving those other areas. To some degree, GPA and academic record can be used by colleges to extrapolate what SAT/ACT score a student would have gotten, should they have taken the test. At a fundamental level, this shift means that a holistic approach is more important than ever.

It’s time to move to a new theory of college admissions success that is geared less towards earning the highest possible test scores and more towards developing the whole child into a successful, fulfilled human being.

To learn more about how UCEazy has helped families and how our expertise could help yours with this recent change, please contact UCEazy for a free meeting at or 1-833-982-3299.

Michael Tsai, UCEazy Counselor