The Upcoming SAT: Is It Really Optional?

Lucy Samuels, Staff Writer

Another year goes by as a new round of juniors begin to take the first steps of their college careers, with the SAT as their primary stepping stone. March 13, 2021, the first test date of this year, served as an opportunity for many juniors to jump-start their college resumes. 

Despite the numerous colleges waiving testing requirements due to COVID, many Chamblee juniors continue to study for the long-awaited SAT. 

Joanna Louis-Ugbo (’22), a Beta Club officer, Student Body Vice President, and member of the yearbook staff, has the extracurriculars to bolster her application. Yet she still plans to take the exam in March.

“My top schools are all test-optional, and I don’t think I really need to take the test for them, because I think I have the extracurriculars and the grades for it. It’s just my parents wanted that extra cushion of having a good SAT score to apply for schools,” said Louis-Ugbo.

Mia Wood (‘22) is also taking the test in March—not necessarily for the results, but more for the safety net the test provides.

“I’m taking the test mostly because of the security of it,” said Wood. “I’ve heard that a lot of colleges are waiving it for [the class of] 2021 applicants, but nothing about 2022. So what if August comes around, and they’re like, ‘Oh, well, you still need a test score to get into college’? So what would I do without the literal test for getting into college? That’s the only reason why. Just in case we still need a score.” 

Meanwhile, Rudy Bhukhanwala (’22), who plans to apply to the Georgia Institute of Technology, wants all the accolades he can get.

“I think there’s more reason to test if the college is making it optional because then other people may not take the test, so it’s going to give me an edge over others. And especially if I’m applying to a competitive University, like Georgia Tech, I could use all the edge I can get. So I’m going to take it because I think that’s the only thing that makes sense right now if I want the upper hand,” he said.

Considering the actual preparation for the SAT, students like Louis-Ugbo have not needed to adapt much. SAT prep organizations have been accommodating to COVID-19 guidelines, determined to keep juniors from cramming for the last couple of months they have left until their test. 

“I take a class at this program called Edison Prep, and I took the Tuesday evening class,” said Louis-Ugbo. “We went in-person for like three hours every Tuesday. And then in between, I would take practice tests on the College Board, or I’ll just do Khan Academy exercises.” 

Only a handful of testing centers are offering in-person testing at their schools, although availability tends to vary. 

“So I’m taking mine at Pius. [Edison Prep] told us that we shouldn’t sign up for SATs at any schools [yet] because they’re going to cancel, and all my friends that did it at Parkview or Lakeside, they already canceled,” said Louis-Ugbo.

Wood would have liked to take a similar path to Louis-Ugbo, but with the risk of COVID, Khan Academy serves as her primary prep source.

“I’ve been using Khan Academy a lot,” she said. “That’s pretty much all I’ve been doing. I probably would have tried to have specific math tutoring in person. I probably would have still studied reading online, but it’s definitely a little bit more difficult to fully study for such a big test online. I definitely would have at least gotten some tutoring if it weren’t for COVID.”

Although COVID-19 has been pushing students like Wood back from test prep, Bhukhanwala has found alternate methods beneficial.

“If there was no COVID, then I had to go all the way to Duluth and back [for test prep],” Bhukhanwala said, “which would take me like 15 minutes every alternate day. That would be a pain. In fact, I think it’s more convenient for everybody.”

While some emphasize the allegedly overbearing importance of test scores, that is subject to change—especially under a holistic approach, where students do not need to rely solely on their test scores for their chance at their dream school.  

“I think that, at least for the colleges I’m looking at, they pride themselves on taking a holistic view during the application process. And so they understand that the SAT is just one task, and it doesn’t define your whole school career. I think they would try to see what you’ve done throughout the four years that you’ve been in high school, rather than just one test.” Said Louis-Ugbo

On the other hand, Wood is still looking to improve her score.

“My PSAT scores have always been kind of low. And it’s standardized testing especially gets to me a lot. I’m like, a terrible test taker,” said Wood. “But I do think I’m a well-rounded student, […] and it will hopefully show, but if I have like an 800 on the SAT, then that will probably, I would assume, drag me down a lot.” 

As for Louis-Ugbo, the test is still riding on an important outcome for her, although that outcome is not related to academics.

“I’m not really nervous because I can always choose to re-take, but I have a lot of things riding on this score because my parents put conditions on it,” said Louis-Ugbo. “So that’s the only reason I’m nervous—because I want to get the thing that I was promised [from] my score.”

That ‘promised thing’ is, in fact, a car.