More Colleges Drop ACT/SAT; Activities, Essays More Important than Ever

I recently posted on the increased importance of activities and on application essays for the class of 2021, and in the two weeks since I wrote that, most of the Ivy League has now formally dropped the test score requirements. Only Harvard and Princeton have not made a formal announcement, and as the quote below shows, they may be moving that way–with Harvard hedging, bet that Princeton will not want to stand alone as the only Ivy holding students responsible for a test they cannot or perhaps should not, for health reasons,* be taking this year. Here’s the live quote:

“As of Friday afternoon, [June 12] Harvard and Princeton universities were the lone Ivy holdouts. But even Harvard appeared to be inching toward flexibility. “If students are prevented from taking tests in any form due to COVID-19, we will still review their applications as we have in the past in other exceptional circumstances,” Harvard said in a statement. Stanford University’s dean of admission and financial aid, Richard Shaw, said his school’s approach will be similar to Harvard’s.”

Optional Testing Raises the Bar on Essays and Activities

Please see my earlier post on how this reduction in testing information will boost the importance of your activities. Just as much, this will boost the importance of your essays. Essays in part shape the presentation of your activities, but your essays also offer a look that is wider than what college activities or data can offer–you show your passions and motivations as well as your accomplishments in essays.

And with the only data being GPA for most of the Ivies this year, your written material and activities have become the only way to separate yourself from the crowd.

This is a huge change, one that is hard to overstate, in a game of margins. Faced with identical GPA’s, transcripts and range of classes that are relatively interchangeable, and a slate of winning essays, marginal differences in test scores do make a difference. Or did make a difference.

Now you need to focus even more on developing those supposedly “softer” measurements for you holistic application evaluations. You also need to ramp up ideas for summer activities now, to replace anything you might have dropped, or that may have been canceled, due to COVID. In a post earlier this summer, I offered some suggestions for community service-based activities that you could get off the ground literally in a couple of days, so please see my recent discussion on getting activities going–boosting your activities and essays for 2020-2021.

Launch a New Activity Now and Review Existing Essay Prompts

No need to panic–just start doing some constructive work, that helps others, and think about how you could write about your activities. Possibly this feels a bit phony or hypocritical to you–but is this not the point of your education both now and in college? To learn, then to apply your new skills to solve problems, helping others and the world around you? If you go out and start a new activity that helps others, you are showing what kind of person you would be in a campus community–which is a fundemental part of a holistic evaluation of a college application. This is really an exercise in “real life” flexibility, innovation and leadership. Have at it.

Also take a look at my recent posts on the major essay prompts that are up–

Starting Common Application Essays in 2020-2021

Starting your Texas application essays in 2020-2021 (and doubling up main essays to save time and work).

I will be posting on other major essay prompts as they continue to roll out between now and August. Come back soon.

For Essay Development and Editing, Contact Me

I still have some space available for new essay development and editing clients this summer. Contact me to get started.