Principals Perspective (March 2022) - Dr. Lisa Vardi
Dr. Lisa Vardi and Sue Rexford

The Ever Evolving World of College Admissions
This post was co-authored by Dr. Lisa Vardi, High School Principal,
and Sue Rexford, Director of College Counseling

One of the many benefits of a CESJDS high school education is the exceptional support our College Guidance team provides to our students. The team has deliberately and thoughtfully designed a college counseling process that provides students and families with individual attention and frequent communication including evening programs, one-on-one conferences, and monthly newsletters.    

Led by Sue Rexford, who has served as CESJDS Director of College Guidance since 2009, her team guides students with knowledge that comes from decades of professional experience in college advising, tracking our alumni and their application data, and following national trends affecting college admissions. Ms. Rexford is an active member of the National Association for College Admission Counseling (NACAC) and the Potomac Association of College Admission Counseling (PCACAC). She has been a member of several committees in NACAC and has served as a past president of PCACAC. Our students are in excellent hands due to her leadership.  

The College Board recently announced the PSAT and SAT will be administered in a digital format in 2023 and 2024 respectively. As with any time the College Board makes adjustments to standardized tests, the topic of the role of standardized testing in the college process moves to the forefront. I asked Ms. Rexford if she might answer some frequently asked questions about standardized testing, the college process and the recent changes announced by the College Board. 

What will be the impact of the PSAT and SAT moving to a digital format and what will the tests look like? 

  • The tests will still be administered in existing test centers overseen by the College Board.
  • Students will now use computers instead of paper and pencil.
  • The digital SAT wll be shorter - 2 hours instead of the previous 3 - and will have only two sections; one will assess reading and writing, the other math.
  • Calculators will now be allowed on all math questions.
  • Reading passages have been shortened and will have only one question per passage.

What is the timeline for the rollout of the new format?

  • As with previous rollouts of changes to their tests, College Board will start with the PSAT administered in the fall of 2023.
  • The digital SAT will be administered for the first time in 2024. 
  • The first class to be impacted by the new format will be the class of 2025.

Will the ACT also move to a digital format?

  • As of now, ACT has not made any announcement regarding the move to a digital version. 

What is the difference between test optional and test blind?

  • Test optional means that if a student submits scores to colleges, those scores will be considered in the application review. If a student does not submit scores, colleges will rely on the other application components to make a decision.
  • Test blind means that even if test scores are submitted, colleges will not use them in the review process. 

Will the current policy of test optional that many colleges have implemented continue or will colleges return to requiring standardized tests once the COVID pandemic has subsided? 

  • At the beginning of the pandemic, over 1500 colleges and universities became test optional.
  • Currently, over 1800 schools have announced they are test optional for the upcoming admissions cycle for the current junior class. 
  • Many colleges have extended their test optional policy beyond next year.

Should students who have access to test centers test or not test?

  • My best advice is students should test if at all possible to leave open the option of applying with scores or applying test optional. 
  • Test scores above the colleges’ averages could be advantageous.
  • There are still colleges that require standardized test scores.

What will be the role of standardized testing moving forward?   

This is still a question without a definitive answer except for those colleges that were already test optional before COVID. Some colleges are making the decision regarding test optional policies on a year-to-year basis while others are taking a longer term perspective.  It may take several years or longer before we see a definitive policy, even if we do then. In addition, traditionally, students have assigned more weight to standardized test scores than colleges do, but, at the same time, standardized tests have been a way to compare applicants who are submitting a wide variety of transcripts and grading scales as part of their applications. As always, working with the college counselors, students will be advised of the best way to proceed to navigate the changing world of standardized testing.