With Recent Changes, What Matters for College Admissions in 2021?

The COVID pandemic accelerated a shift that had already begun at some universities, but many still consider the SAT and ACT for admissions. Here’s what you need to know.

Do SAT and ACT exam scores still matter in 2021? The pandemic forced admissions committees to confront an evolving consensus about standardized entrance exams in recent years. As of December 2020, 59% of the colleges and universities that have altered test policy have limited the ‘test optional’ or ‘test blind’ policy to 2021 applicants. Several others have thus far limited their test policy changes to 2021 and 2022 applicants. What does this mean? It’s too soon to make any assumptions about the future of college entrance exams. On the other hand, these changes place far more emphasis on crafting the perfect admissions essay. At Hawk Educational Solutions, we’d be honored to help you navigate the shifting landscape of college admissions.

What schools still require the SAT or ACT?

The Florida State University system, with its 12 colleges, is currently the only state system enforcing the requirement of SAT/ACT entrance exams. However, a number of unique college programs still require SAT subject test scores for admissions. For example, the University of Miami Biochemistry and Molecular Biology programs still require Math 1 and 2 and any science subject test. A few dozen other special programs nationwide still require or consider SAT subject tests. Familiarize yourself with the admissions requirements for your top choices and backup options. 

Where can the SAT or ACT boost my admission prospects?

Dozens of major university systems and prestigious colleges consider entrance exams to be optional. They clearly state that they will still accept SAT and ACT test scores and consider them as a part of college applications. Together with a powerful essay, excellent grades and involvement in high school, your test scores will enhance your application at these institutions. Here are just some of the popular schools that are still looking at test scores:

  • Amherst College
  • Arizona State University
  • Auburn University
  • Baylor University
  • Boston University
  • Brown University (IVY League)
  • Columbia University (IVY League)
  • Cornell University (IVY League)
  • Dartmouth University (IVY League)
  • Duke University
  • Harvard University (IVY League)
  • Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
  • Michigan State University
  • Occidental College
  • Oregon State University
  • Pomona College
  • Princeton University (IVY League)
  • Rutgers University (IVY League)
  • Santa Clara University
  • Scripps College
  • Stanford University
  • Texas A&M University
  • University of Notre Dame
  • University of Pennsylvania (Penn, IVY League)
  • University of San Diego
  • University of Southern California
  • Virginia Tech
  • Yale University (IVY League)

Admissions essays are far more important than ever before

University admissions committees say that students should use their personal story to craft a powerful, unique essay. This is especially true in the California State University system, which is ‘test blind’ for 2021 only. Believe it or not, it’s best to avoid making the pandemic the central theme. Keep it as a minor mention in your essay. Why? Admissions committees say that most essays they are reading are about how life has been upended by COVID, so an essay that sets you apart means more now than ever. Tulane University Director of Undergraduate Admissions Jeff Schiffman told NPR News that COVID fatigue is real. “I’ll use myself as an example. I’ve had to cancel my wedding four times. Everyone is going through something, so I don’t think folks are going to want to relive it over and over and over again with 45,000 applications.”

Here at Hawk Educational Solutions, we provide college essay consulting with our experienced and proven admissions counselors. We’d love to help you write a successful admissions essay that will show college admissions committees that you are primed for success and ready to step up to the challenge of higher education. Check out our helpful tips and tricks to get you started.


  1. https://www.fairtest.org/university/optional
  2. https://www.npr.org/2020/08/12/900173338/how-the-coronavirus-has-upended-college-admissions

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