The UC’s New SAT/ACT Requirement

by | Apr 11, 2020

COVID-19 has touched every part of our world – including education and college admissions. We wanted to update you on some important changes just announced by the University of California, and to explain what they mean for you. 

How Exactly Have the UCs Changed Their Admissions Requirements? 

The University of California understands that the recent lockdown has meant significant disruptions for many students. In light of that, they have adjusted their requirements for those applying next fall. Most notably: 

• The UC will not require fall applicants to submit an SAT or ACT score. 

• The UC will not require a letter grade for A-G courses taken during the winter, spring, and summer terms. So if your school decides to assess courses on a “pass/fail” basis, rather than awarding letter grades, the UCs will still count these courses for the purpose of determining your admissions eligibility. 

I’ve Already Taken the Test. Can I Still Submit My Scores to the UC? 

Absolutely. The UC has made it clear that while scores will be optional in the fall, they will still be accepted.  

I Haven’t Taken the Test Yet…Should I Still Take It? 

YES, for several reasons: 

1) The changes to testing requirements are only relevant to students currently in the 11th grade. If you are a freshman or sophomore, the requirements will have returned to normal long before you apply. So you still need to plan on taking the test.   

2) While the UCs have temporarily waived their testing requirement, many schools have not done so. If you are intended to apply to a range of schools in the fall, you will very likely need an SAT or ACT score to apply.

3) Even if you are applying to a test-optional school in the fall, a strong score on the SAT/ACT can only help you.

When you apply for colleges, your job is to separate your application out from all the others in the pile. And for the UCs, that is a very big pile indeed. Last year, UCLA received 111,000 applications – for 6,200 spots. UCSD received 100,000 applications. 

And while admissions officers consider a range of factors, many of those factors won’t be particularly useful for separating your application from the pack. GPA, for instance. Last year, there were 53,000 applicants to UCLA who had a GPA of above a 4.0. So your 4.3, by itself, won’t do much to make you stand out. Your six AP classes? Most of your competitors have a schedule that’s just as loaded. 

A strong test score doesn’t guarantee you admission to any school. But you’ve got only a small handful of ways to make yourself stand out – and a test score is one of them. 

Ok. But CAN I Still Take the Test? I Thought the Tests Were All Being Canceled? 

Yes, you should probably be able to take an SAT or an ACT in the fall, and probably sooner than that. 

It’s true that May SAT tests were canceled, and most of the April dates. And at the moment, future scheduling remains somewhat uncertain. 

But as of this writing, both the ACT and the SAT are still committed to holding tests in June. In the event of a more prolonged shutdown, the College Board has committed to finding other ways for students to take the test. Per their most recent update: “If, unfortunately, schools cannot reopen this fall, we’re pursuing innovative ways to ensure all students can still take the SAT this fall.” The College Board has moved AP testing online in relatively short order. So there is every reason to believe that they would be able to do the same with the SAT if it is necessary. 

So The UCs Are Not Getting Rid of the Test Requirement Forever? 

No. Their most recent update makes it clear that these changes are only intended to last for the duration of the crisis. Per their update: “this modification to the test requirement is not intended as an admissions policy shift but is rather a temporary accommodation driven by the current extraordinary circumstances.”

Just before the pandemic struck, moreover, the UC faculty senate recommended that admissions offices should retain standardized as an admissions requirement.